“We have obtained information on who was behind the fascist and racist banners that were seen at this year's Independence March,” Polish public broadcaster TVP Info reported on its website.
It added that those responsible “were members of extreme nationalist organisations that marched together under the collective name Black Bloc.”
TVP Info said police estimated that 60,000 people took part in the Independence Day march. Meanwhile, Black Bloc marchers numbered several dozen, the broadcaster said.
The Black Bloc marchers comprised groups called Niklot and the Szturmowcy (from the Polish word for "storm"), according to TVP Info.
It cited Twitter user @bogdan607, whom it identified as the original source of the information.
'Racism is alien to us'
Meanwhile, "national-minded" groups have distanced themselves from the racist incidents reported during the event, according to TVP Info.
It quoted Krzysztof Bosak, a leader of a political group called the National Movement, as saying that "Polish national-minded groups are guided by Polish national ideals” and the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
“Racism is alien to us" but not opposition to immigration, Bosak has written on Twitter, according to TVP Info.
Mateusz Piskorski, a political activist who last year was detained by Poland’s Internal Security Agency (ABW) on suspicion of espionage for Russia, was once a member of Niklot, the broadcaster said.
It added that Niklot leaders regularly urge supporters to take part in a so-called "Russian March," which, according to TVP Info, takes place in Moscow to promote the idea of pan-Slavism, or unity of Slavic-speaking peoples.
Meanwhile, Niklot has issued a statement to say that Piskorski left the group in 2003 and that “his activities have had nothing to do with our association for a long time.”
It also said that Piskorski's “activities today are alien to the ideals of our movement.”
After this year’s Independence March in Warsaw on November 11, many Western media outlets reported that Warsaw was the scene of Europe’s largest fascist march, TVP Info said.
Many such reports also hit out at the Polish government and criticised patriotic communities in Poland, TVP Info added.
Jesse Lehrich, a former foreign policy spokesman for Hillary Clinton, wrote on Twitter that “60,000 Nazis marched on Warsaw” on November 11, Poland’s Independence Day.
‘Small number’ of banners ‘associated with fascism’
A "small number" of Independence March participants waved “banners that are commonly associated with fascism,” according to TVP Info.
Among these were flags with the so-called Celtic cross, which is a symbol used by Norwegian Nazis, and by German and American neo-Nazis. This symbol is also used by a Polish party called the National Rebirth of Poland, TVP Info said.
It added that some marchers also held banners with the slogans "Pure Blood" and "White Europe of fraternal nations."
The Black Bloc distributed a manifesto to supporters via the internet ahead of the march, according to the broadcaster.
The manifesto said: “We are the voice of those who, in spite of everything and everyone, want to destroy the system and build a new home for our nation on its ruins!” – according to TVP Info.
Nilkot is an association that directly refers to the legacy of Zadruga, a prewar nationalist, anti-clerical and anti-Semitic organisation. Niklot aims to fight for the “purity of the Slavic and Aryan race,” while also seeking to fight against the Catholic Church, according to TVP Info. The association cultivates pagan customs and symbols, the broadcaster said on its website.
The Szturmowcy, the other key component of the Black Bloc, is a new group of nationalists that uses a lightning-bolt-within-a-circle symbol copied from that once used by the British Union of Fascists. They reject the democratic system and want it to be overthrown, according to TVP Info.
'No room for xenophobia'
Key political figures in Poland, including President Andrzej Duda and the leader of the country's ruling conservatives, have distanced themselves from the reported incidents.
Duda said on Monday that “there is no room … in our country for xenophobia, for pathological nationalism, for anti-Semitism.”
The head of Poland’s goverrning conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party, Jarosław Kaczyński, said his group referred to traditions that “have nothing to do with anti-Semitism or racism.”
When asked about the march in a media interview, Kaczyński said that "there were some extremely unfortunate" and "completely unacceptable" incidents during the event, but added that these occurrences were the "fringe of the fringe" and that they were “very likely a provocation.”
Source: TVP Info