The 2020 Independence March on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Poland regaining its independence on November 11, 1918, took place in Warsaw.
Due to pandemic restrictions and out of concern for the participants, the march’s organizers decided to change the event to be a procession of cars instead of the usual pedestrian gathering.
Despite the form of the official march being changed, hundreds of people took to the streets less than an hour before the vehicle procession began.
The Warsaw Police immediately urged the pedestrian participants to disperse, warning that such a gathering was illegal under current restrictions (social gatherings of only up to five people are permitted).
Some participants became violent, including throwing pyrotechnics and flairs at buildings and assaulting the police. One apartment in Warsaw’s center was set on fire. The participants also broke through police barricades meant to protect bystanders and blocked access to ambulances trying to reach wounded people.
The Warsaw Police reported that several officers had also been injured. In response to the violent acts, police were forced to use “measures of physical coercion” including pepper spray and, in some cases, rubber bullets.
Head of the Independence March Association Robert Bąkiewicz said on social media that the Association and motorcade participants were “disassociating” themselves from any and all provocations, including those of the police.
Bąkiewicz accused the police of “seeking confrontation” from the start by being positioned in many different parts of Warsaw’s center. He criticized the authorities for allowing the pro-abortion protesters in Warsaw to avoid repercussions while “Polish patriots” were gassed and beaten by the police.
“What purpose did today’s aggression of the police towards the Independence March and journalists serve?” Bąkiewicz asked while sharing a clip on Twitter showing a clash with the police.
Czemu służyła dzisiejsza agresja policji wobec Marszu Niepodległości i dziennikarzy? pic.twitter.com/xDepPBOYDz
— Robert Bąkiewicz (@RBakiewicz) November 11, 2020
Minister of the Interior Mariusz Kamiński also commented on the incidents underlining that “given the aggressive behavior of some participants at the march, it was necessary for the police to use measures of physical coercion.”
He added that he was informed by organizers that the event would be a motorcade this year, as participants and organizers wanted to be responsible due to the ongoing pandemic.
Kamiński pointed out, however, that the original plan of the march was not upheld, and an illegal gathering took place alongside the procession of cars.