So, yesterday, when I was writing my article, going to the synagogue for the Independence Day “prayers for Poland,” and having dinner with a friend, this was happening, too.
Twenty nine people, including several policemen, were taken to the hospital with injuries and two hundred people were arrested as result of clashes between police and right-wing extremists during events held in Warsaw, November 11, to commemorate Poland’s Independence Day.
I didn’t observe this first-hand, and neither did anyone I know. My friends who showed up earlier in the day to support the anti-fascist parade ended up leaving because things were already starting to seem unsafe.
They said that there was an extremely large turnout of people supporting the anti-fascists–people with rainbow flags, one person wearing the poster of this weekend’s Jewish Film Festival. They wanted to stay and support, but they were starting to become frightened by the enormous number of police. My friend made it sound like there was a very large group of anti-fascists, a circle of police trying to protect the anti-fascists, and a small number of determined pro-fascists trying to break through the circle of police. Again, I wasn’t there, but this is what my friends experienced.
Plac Konstytucji is right around the corner from the hostel I was staying in when I first came to Poland, and it’s the first place outside the airport I saw that I really associate with Warsaw. I can’t imagine there being riots there. It’s right in the center of town.
For another thing, Poland is–and has been for as long as I’ve been coming here–one of the most peaceful, quiet, friendly, welcoming places I’ve ever seen. It’s impossible for me to imagine what this was like.
I’m grateful to all the Varsovians who showed up to support the anti-fascist parade, sorry that some of them got hurt, and I’m saddened that Poland’s independence day–which, as President Komorowski said, should be a time to celebrate together, “not against one another”–was marred by the actions of this small right-wing extremist group, who are entirely out of touch with the spirit of today’s Poland.