Tens of thousands of right-wing protesters dominated Poland’s Independence Day celebrations with Islamophobic placards calling for a holocaust against Muslims.
An estimated 60,000 people attended the march in the capital city of Warsaw, with protesters chanting “clean blood”, “pure Poland” and “white Poland”.
President Andrzej Duda presided over state ceremonies, as well as the European Union’s president Donald Tusk, who is a former prime minister of Poland.
The right-wing march was the largest Independence Day event in recent years, overshadowing official state observances and other patriotic events.
Some participants expressed clear Islamophobic and white supremacist ideas, with some banners reading “White Europe of brotherly nations” and “Pray for Islamic holocaust”.
Participants marched under the slogan “We Want God,” words from an old Polish religious song that President Donald Trump quoted during a visit to Warsaw earlier this year.
Speakers spoke of standing against Islam and defending Christian values.
Police estimated that out of the 60,000 people who took part, most were young white men and elderly Poles.
The march has become one of Europe largest demonstrations, and Saturday drew far-right leaders from across Europe, including Britain’s Tommy Robinson and Roberto Fiore from Italy.
State broadcaster TVP, which reflects the conservative government’s policies, called it a “great march of patriots,” and in its broadcasts described the event as one that drew mostly regular Poles expressing their love of Poland – not extremists.
Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said: “It was a beautiful sight. We are proud that so many Poles have decided to take part in a celebration connected to the Independence Day holiday.”
Independence Day marks Poland regaining its sovereignty at the end of World War I after being partitioned and ruled since the late eighteenth century by Russia, Prussia and the Hapsburg Empire.