Thousands of demonstrators in the Polish capital Warsaw have renewed their protest against government plans to restrict journalists’ access to parliament.
On December 17, crowds gathered outside the presidential palace and then marched to parliament.
Yesterday protesters blockaded the parliament building, leading to a late-night stand-off with police.
Poland’s populist right-wing government wants to limit the number of reporters allowed to cover parliament.
However, opposition lawmakers accuse it of trying to stifle press freedom.
Image source CBC
Amid a heavy police presence, a crowd of about 2,000 people gathered outside the presidential palace chanting “freedom, equality, democracy”. Some held up copies of the constitution.
The crowd later marched to the parliament building where opposition lawmakers are staging a sit-in.
On December 17, European Council President Donald Tusk, a former Polish prime minister, urged the government to respect the constitution.
Addressing reporters in the western city of Wroclaw, Donald Tusk criticized the government’s plans, saying that without media access “democracy becomes dictatorship”.
In extraordinary scenes last night, opposition lawmakers blockaded the parliamentary plenary chamber, forcing fellow lawmakers from the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party into another room to vote on 2017 budget.
It was the first time since the restoration of democracy in 1989 that such a vote was held outside the main chamber of parliament.
Outside parliament, thousands of protesters gathered overnight. Police had to forcefully remove people to allow lawmakers to leave the building.
Leader of the opposition Nowoczesna party, Ryszard Petru, accused the government of usurping parliament’s authority.
Governing PiS has been accused of restricting press freedom since coming to power in 2015.
In 2017 only a few reporters will be allowed into parliament, with five selected TV stations permitted to make recordings of parliamentary sessions.
PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski said on December 16 that the proposals were no different to the media access in many other European nations.
Jaroslaw Kaczynski accused protesters of hooliganism and threatened them with unspecified “consequences”.
President Barack Obama met Ukraine President-elect Petro Poroshenko, and pledged support for plans to restore peace to the country.
Both presidents are in Warsaw to mark 25 years since the fall of communism in Poland.
Barack Obama called Petro Poroshenko a “wise selection” to lead Ukraine, and said the nation could become a vibrant, thriving democracy if the world community stood behind it.
President Barack Obama met Ukraine President-elect Petro Poroshenko, and pledged support for plans to restore peace to the country
Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire sweet manufacturer, was elected in May and will be inaugurated as Ukraine’s president on Saturday.
Barack Obama pledged $5 million of military assistance to Kiev including body armor and night-vision goggles.
The aid follows $18 million promised since early March for food, clothes, radios and other equipment.
Barack Obama has now arrived in Brussels for a meeting of the G7 major industrial nations, the first since Russia was removed from the G8 in protest over its annexation of Crimea in March.
He is expected to attend the 70th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day landings in Normandy on Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also be at the ceremony but the two leaders have no meeting scheduled.
At least 21 people have been hospitalized with injuries and more than 150 have been arrested during violent clashes that took place in the Polish capital Warsaw yesterday on country’s Independence Day.
Marches by far-right nationalists have been growing in size on the national holiday, with left-wing activists turning out to oppose them.
Police used water cannon and pepper spray to bring the situation under control.
They responded after right-wing marchers, many with scarves hiding their faces, began pelting them with stones, bottles and flares, national police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said.
The police were attempting to keep the nationalist and leftist demonstrators apart.
At least 21 people have been hospitalized with injuries and more than 150 have been arrested during violent clashes that took place in the Polish capital Warsaw
A police plan to keep hostile marches from one another was successful, he said, but “thugs and hooligans joined the marches to target police”.
Nine police officers were injured, including three who were hospitalized with serious injuries, according to Mr Sokolowski.
Rightist demonstrators later set fire to a television van covering the unrest.
Earlier in the day, leftist demonstrators chanting “Fascism will not pass” attacked police as they tried to stop them blocking a major Warsaw thoroughfare, down which the nationalist march was due to pass, Mariusz Sokolowski said.
For weeks, a coalition of leftists, anarchists, pro-abortionists, Greens and gay-rights activists had been publicising plans to block the Independence March being organized by nationalist youth groups All-Polish Youth and the National Radical Camp, Reuters news agency reported.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Donald Tusk said he vowed to make sure those arrested for attacking police were severely punished.
Under Polish law, an assault on a law-enforcement officer carries a maximum three-year jail sentence.
This year the marches were seen as a major test of the country’s security capabilities before the Euro 2012 football championship, which Poland will co-host with Ukraine next summer, the Associated Press reports.
The 11 November celebration marks the day in 1918 when Poland regained its independence, 123 years after it was divided between Russia, Prussia and the Austrian Empire.
Speaking at an official Independence Day ceremony earlier, President Bronislaw Komorowski had urged Poles to “celebrate this patriotic occasion together, not against one another”.
President Komorowski honoured fallen veterans by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during state ceremonies.
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