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Ban overturned on Polish independence march by nationalists

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Media captionThese were the scenes in 2017 when a nationalist march and counter-protest took place in Warsaw

A Polish court has overturned a ban on a nationalist march in Warsaw to mark 100 years of Poland’s independence.

“We’re victorious,” said the organisers of the annual event, which has become a magnet for the far right and has been marked by violence in recent years.

The ruling comes a day after Warsaw Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz barred the rally, saying the city had suffered enough from “aggressive nationalism”.

After the ban, President Andrzej Duda vowed to organise an official march.

“Everyone is invited, come only with red-and-white flags,” he said, referring to the march that was expected to follow the same route as the nationalist rally – only starting one hour later.

The president warned that anyone carrying the kind of offensive banners seen last year would be dealt with by the police.

Why are nationalist marches controversial?

Although the yearly event is popular with thousands of ordinary, patriotic Poles, including supporters of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, it is partly organised by the far-right National Radical Camp (ONR).

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Reuters

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In 2015, some participants carried a banner that read Poland for Poles – Poles for Poland

Among the Polish flags last year were smoke bombs, along with racist and anti-Semitic chants and banners. Some of the marchers were far-right agitators from other countries including the UK and Italy.

A smaller counter-protest attracted some 2,000 people.

The march was cited in a European Parliament resolution last month, which called for a ban on neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups.

What did the mayor say?

Ms Gronkiewicz-Waltz, a member of the opposition Civic Platform party, explained that security on Sunday was a concern and her appeals to the government for help had fallen on deaf ears.

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Getty Images

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The mayor complained that no charges had been brought against people who had broken laws at last year’s march

Strike action by police would also make it difficult to secure the event properly, she said, and Warsaw had suffered historically from aggressive nationalism under German occupation.

“Poland’s 100th anniversary of independence shouldn’t look like this, hence my decision to forbid it,” she said. Poland’s second republic was established on 11 November 1918 at the end of World War One, after more than a century of rule by Prussia, the Austro-Hungarian empire and Russia.

Ms Gronkiewicz-Waltz also complained that no charges had been brought against people who had broken laws at last year’s march.

Ban overturned on Polish independence march by nationalists