Demonstrators hold Polish and EU flags during the “Freedom March” in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on May 6, 2017, organized by Poland's main Civic Platform opposition party to protest against the ruling Law and Justice party. (AFP photo)
Thousands of Poles have taken part in a large rally in Warsaw to demand a stop to the populist policies of the government, which they say threaten Poland’s position in the European Union and NATO.
Police said about 9,000 people marched through Warsaw on Saturday while organizers of the “March of Freedom” put the number of demonstrators at more than 50,000.
The event was meant to show growing frustration with the populist policies of the ruling Law and Justice party under former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
The march had been organized by the main opposition Civic Platform party, along with members of other opposition parties and the Committee for the Defense of Democracy.
Protesters said the government sought to erode the independence of courts and other institutions and had taken decisions that were clear attacks against Poland’s democratic foundations. They said the EU and NATO would never have accepted Poland as a member in the current situation.
Jacek Jaskowiak, the mayor of Poznan, a city in western Poland, said the ruling party, which came to power in 2015, was seeking a British-style exit from the EU.
“We will not allow Kaczynski to take us out of Western Europe. Together we will defend freedom,” he said.
Demonstrators with a European Union flag attend the “Freedom March” in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on May 6, 2017 organized by Poland's main liberal Civic Platform opposition party to protest against the ruling Law and Justice party. (AFP photo)
Kaczynski has denied the claims and said the protesters were misguided.
“Freedom exists in Poland and only those who do not perceive reality can question that,” said the former premier.
The march was meant to be a replica of a massive rally in May last year, which drew 240,000 people to the streets. The rally was different than the Schumann Parade, a yearly pro-EU parade which was held in Warsaw on Saturday.

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