WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s Defense Ministry will handle security during an Independence Day march this weekend in Warsaw as police are staging mass walkouts in a pay dispute that has created concerns about keeping people safe.
Over the past decade, radical nationalists have staged marches featuring racist banners and rioting on Nov.11 as Poles celebrate their nation’s independence, regained at the end of World War I after more than a century of foreign rule.
With security concerns running high, Warsaw’s mayor on Wednesday banned the nationalists’ march, and the president’s and prime minister’s offices quickly announced plans for an inclusive state march in its place.
Michal Dworczyk, chief of the Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s chancellery, said that the Defense Ministry, in charge of the army, will organize security at events marking the centenary of Polish independence on Sunday.
In recent days many police officers — up to 60 percent of the force in some places — have gone on sick leave to protests their pay, raising concerns about how it will be possible to secure the march in Warsaw along with many other events across the nation on Sunday.
Another divisive issue has been a statue being unveiled Saturday of the late President Lech Kaczynski in a central Warsaw square. At nearly 7 meters (23 feet) it towers over a nearby monument of the national hero Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, the statesman who led Poland in regaining its independence a century ago.
Kaczynski, who was killed in a 2010 plane crash in Russia, was the identical twin of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the head of the right-wing Law and Justice party currently in power.
While Poles united in mourning the tragedy that took his life and 95 others, including the first lady, they are deeply divided on whether he deserves such heroic status.
In another development, the president signed a law late Wednesday that makes next Monday a day off work for Poles since the holiday falls on a Sunday.
Pro-business lawmakers and many in the business community say the last-minute organization of a day off is causing disruptions and chaos and warn it will affect their bottom line.