Demo in Warsaw: PiS rails against Tusk, EU and Germany

PiS supporters gather in front of the parliament building in Warsaw. They carried Polish flags and placards that read: “This is Poland, not Tuscoland” and “Minister of Culture – Minister of Censorship.” Organizers spoke of 100,000 to 300,000, then 500,000 attendees; Warsaw City Hall initially put the number at 35,000. Onet, the largest Polish internet portal, estimated between 90,000 and 120,000 people at the rally.

Appearing before the demonstrators, PiS leader Kaczynski warned that the EU was planning to “dissolve the Polish homeland” and reduce it to “a residential area for Poles”. Regarding Tusk's pro-European coalition government, which has been in office for almost a month, Kaczynski said: “This is not a Polish government.” PiS considers Tusk to be acting on behalf of Germany.

Reuters/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Kaczynski with other PiS politicians at the demonstration

At the demonstration, PiS also complained that buses with trailers from the countryside were not allowed into the city. There is no guarantee for this. The party may have wanted to explain the officially low number of participants. Earlier, it was said that the former ruling party wanted to bring in old supporters from rural areas for the rally.

The protest march later led to a government meeting and thus to Tusk's office. Some people there chanted, “Leave the puppy”. Signs that Tusk was called a “dictator” saw PiS lose more than eight percentage points in October's election and could no longer organize a government majority.

The demo was first against media policy

Organized by the national conservatives voted in October, the “Resistance of Independent Poles” was originally against the reorganization of public media. A few weeks ago, Tusk's government began reorganizing the TVP television station, Polish Radio and the PAP news agency. He accused the party of spreading propaganda in recent years under the BIS government. International organizations have also criticized the one-sided reporting by public media in Poland.

Demonstration in Warsaw

Reuters/Aleksandra Szmigiel

Organizers said the number of participants was higher than officials had estimated

Accused former government members arrested

However, the controversy surrounding the arrest of two legally convicted BIS politicians changed the focus of the demonstration. Former Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski and his former State Secretary Maciej Vasic were arrested and jailed on Tuesday. PiS describes the two as “political prisoners” and Kaminski wants to go on hunger strike.

Kaminski and Wasik were both sentenced to two years in prison for abuse of office on appeal by the Warsaw District Court in December and were due to begin their sentences. The reason for the conviction was an affair revealed in 2007 in which the anti-corruption agency headed by Kaminsky allegedly orchestrated a corruption case to discredit then-Agriculture Minister Andrzej Leper.

Poland: Protests against the new government

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Poland against the centre-left government of Donald Tusk. Supporters of the national conservative opposition PiS gathered in front of the parliament building in Warsaw following the call.

Duda starts a new apology

Duda pardoned both men after an initial trial in 2015. However, the Supreme Court declared the pardon illegal as the appeal process was ongoing at the time. Just before the demonstration began, Duda said he had begun a new process of pardoning Kaminski and Vasik. According to Polish media, the prospects for its implementation are mixed. Party leader Kaczynski called on demonstrators to stage short protests in front of the two detention centers where Kaminski and Wasik are staying.

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