Biggest protests since the fall of communism in 1989: Half a million Poles on the streets
Half a million Poles came out today on the streets of Warsaw on protest against the populist nationalist government, a few months before the fall parliamentary elections, the organizers announced. The gathering appears to be the largest in the country since the fall of communism in 1989, French news agency AFP reported, and Britain's Reuters estimated the procession in Warsaw to be at least 1,5 kilometers long.
Coming from all over Poland, the protesters, dressed in the Polish colors white and red as well as in the colors of The European Union responded to the call of the leader of the main centrist opposition party Civic Platform, formeriot leader of the European Council and former Prime Minister Donald Tusk, to protest against "the high cost of living, cheating and lying, in favor of democracy, free elections and the EU".
Some held masks of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski with the word "shame" written on them. The leaders of most opposition parties have encouraged their supporters to join the big march against the populist nationalist ruling Pravda i Pravda (PiS) party, its leader Kaczynski and his allies.
Lech Walesa also participated
"Enough!", "We don't want an authoritarian Poland", "Europe, we apologize for PiS" and "PiS in the urinal" stands on posters targeting the majority that has been in power in Poland for nearly eight years, with upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall.
With white and red hearts taped to their chests, platform representatives led the march accompanied by the legendary leader of the communist world's first free trade union in the 1980s, Lech Walesa, winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize.
In a short speech, Tusk noted that the mission of the opposition is "comparable in importance" to that of the 1980s and the fight against communism at that time.
- We are here today for the whole of Poland, the whole of Europe, the whole world to see how strong we are, how ready we are to fight for freedom and democracy, like 30 and 40 years ago - said Tusk.
Having been absent from the political scene for a long time, Walesa said he was "patiently" waiting for the day when the nationalist party and its leader Kaczynski would have to go.
- Mr. Kaczynski, we came for you. That day has come - said Valens.
Polls predict "narrow" elections
The date of the protest, which the opposition sees as a watershed moment in its march to an eventual election victory, is the 34th anniversary of Poland's first partially free elections, which hastened the fall of communism in Europe. Protests were also organized in other Polish cities.
- ТI'm here because freedom is important, because everyone should feel safe, this is a protest of free people, I believe that changes are already happening - Eva Joakimowicz, a protester from Chelm in eastern Poland, told Reuters in Warsaw.
Despite massive criticism of PiS at home and abroad, which has been accused of undermining the rule of law, turning state media into government mouthpieces and behind support for homophobia, polls show that the elections after the summer will be uncertain.
Russia's war in neighboring Ukraine has strengthened the Law and Justice (PiS) government, which has emerged as a leading anti-Kremlin voice in Europe. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki's government denies undermining any democratic norms and says it aims to protect traditional Christian values from liberal pressures from the West and make the economy fairer.