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At least 100,000 join opposition march in Warsaw

05.06.2023 08:30
Anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 people joined an opposition march in Warsaw on Sunday to protest the policies of Poland’s conservative government, according to media reports.
Photo:PAP/Leszek Szymański

The massive march, led by former Prime Minister Donald Tuskset off from Rozdroże Square in the centre of the Polish capital at midday and ended at the historic Castle Square four hours later, state news agency PAP reported.

Crowds filled Warsaw’s Royal Route and the nearby streets as the protesters, among them the leaders of Poland’s main opposition parties, marched chanting anti-government slogans.

The marchers stopped for a while near the presidential palace, where they called for President Andrzej Duda to be brought before the Tribunal of State for his policies, the PAP news agency reported.

Demonstrators chanted “This is Poland,” “Freedom, equality, democracy,” and “Free Poland,” among other slogans. 

During the march, opposition politicians, campaigners and supporters addressed the crowds from a mobile stage. 

Democracy dies in silence

In a speech at the end of the event, Tusk told the crowds filling Warsaw's Castle Square: "Democracy dies in silence but you've raised your voice for democracy today. Silence is over, we will shout."

He added: "There's half a million people in the streets of Warsaw, it's an absolute record."

Tusk told the rally: “I’m with you today, as well, and I will be, every day and every night until election day, wherever we fight for a free Poland and a better future for the Polish people.”

Tusk, a former European Council chief, called for Poland’s opposition to unite despite political differences and promised victory in parliamentary elections this autumn, the Reuters news agency reported. 

He said: "Today, I'm vowing to win, to make those in power accountable, to mend injustice so that in the end people can be reconciled."

'The march was attended by some 500,000 people': City Hall

According to the organisers, Sunday’s opposition march attracted half a million participants. 

Earlier news reports put the figure at anywhere between 100,000 and 300,000, the PAP news agency reported.

According to Warsaw authorities, the demonstration was attended by “around 500,000 people.”

Monika Beuth, spokeswoman for Warsaw City Hall, told the PAP news agency: “More than 200,000 people came to the rally by subway and some 50,000 in coaches. Participants filled buses, trams and trains. A great many residents of Warsaw came on foot.”

She added: “Based on photos from city cameras, the Warsaw Security Centre estimates that the march was attended by some 500,000 people.”

Meanwhile, unofficial police estimates put the number of participants at between 100,000 and 150,000, PAP reported.

Some said they were motivated by a row over a law drawn up by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to weed out undue Russian influence from the country, the Reuters news agency reported.

The opposition sees the Russian influence probe as a government attempt to launch a witch hunt against political opponents.

The governing conservatives have denied the inquiry is designed to target the opposition.

‘Democracy hasn’t ended in Poland’: gov’t spokesman

Commenting on Sunday’s march, Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller said the event proved that “contrary to the opposition’s claims, democracy hasn’t ended in Poland.”

Müller told private broadcaster Polsat News: “Today’s demonstration contradicts the claims that the opposition has been making for years, that democracy has ended and people are not allowed to express their views in Poland.”

He added: “Just like in any democratic country, people can meet, they can organise a party demonstration, such as the one we’ve seen in Warsaw today.”

‘Democracy is alive and well in Poland’: ruling party spokesman 

Meanwhile, Rafał Bochenek, spokesman for Poland’s governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, said that "the opposition’s march in defence of democracy" was "the best proof that democracy is alive and well in Poland.”

Speaking in an interview with the PAP news agency, Bochenek said: “It’s a shame that so many statements filled with aggression, hatred and profanity have been made in recent days.”     

He added that the government was “focusing on concrete policy proposals for citizens,” while the opposition's march “didn’t seem to offer anything concrete to the Polish people.”

Bochenek told PAP: “Elections are won at the ballot box, not through marches. The opposition should be aware of this, as they have organised many similar marches in the past, with little impact.”


Source: PAP, Reuters, rp.pl

Click on the audio player above to listen to a report by Radio Poland's Michał Owczarek.