Polish police forcibly removed dozens of people staging an anti-government demonstration Saturday in Warsaw, including a hero of the anti-communist Solidarity movement. The demonstrators attempted to block a group led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party, as it moved from a church to the presidential palace to commemorate the 2010 plane crash that killed Kaczynski’s twin brother President Lech Kaczynski and 95 others.
Protesters held white roses and chained themselves together to protest what they believe is the use by Kaczynski of the crash for political purposes.
Police used bolt cutters to cut the chains and hauled off dozens of protesters, including Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, a leading figure of the anti-communist opposition in the 1980s. The plane crash, which occurred in Russia, is the worst tragedy to strike Poland in modern times, wiping out a swath of the political and military elite.
Official Russian and Polish investigations determined the crash was an accident, but Kaczynski has encouraged a theory that the Russians acted intentionally to kill his brother and the others. He also accuses Donald Tusk, then-prime minister and today a top EU leader, of failing to ensure a proper investigation. Amid a new investigation, some of the victims have been exhumed, with revelations emerging of body parts mixed up in the wrong graves. President Kaczynski’s grave was found to include the remains of two others with him, while another grave held the remains of eight separate individuals.
“The exhumations show the immensity of Russian barbarity, but also the immensity of the barbarity of the Polish authorities at the time,” Kaczynski said in a brief speech. He leads a similar ceremony evening month, using it to denounce those he describes as enemies and traitors of Poland.
Pawel Kasprzak, who heads a social movement that organized the demonstration, Obywatele RP, said his group opposes what he called the “obnoxious” way Kaczynski has transformed an act of mourning into a “political meeting of hatred”. He said he was among more than 100 protesters forcibly removed by police, taken to a side street and told they were being charged with the misdemeanor of blocking the protest.