Tusk says size of march shows how many are ready 'to fight for Poland'
Poland's opposition leader Donald Tusk told a vast crowd of anti-government demonstrators in the centre of Warsaw on Sunday that their march showed the government “how many of us are ready to fight for democracy.”
Thousands of people packed into central Warsaw in one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations the capital has seen in years.
Tusk, who had called for the march in April, asking people to protest against “theft, high prices and lies” and campaign for “free elections and a democratic and European Poland”, stood alongside Lech Wałęsa, the leader of Poland’s struggle to rid itself of communist rule.
"We are here today for all of Poland, all of Europe and the whole world to see how strong we are, how many of us are ready.... to fight for freedom and democracy," Tusk, a former prime minister, said at the event's opening.
"I see an ocean of human heads, a sea of white-and-red flags," Tusk continued. "We are thousands, thousands of people with Poland in our hearts, tens of thousands, millions in front of their TVs, Poles who have not allowed themselves to be broken and intimidated."
Tusk also thanked Wałęsa, an ex-president of Poland and legendary leader of the Solidarity Union that overthrew the communist regime in 1989, for his role in restoring freedom in Poland.
Rafał Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw and a high-profile member of Civic Platform, the largest opposition party, told the march participants that "a community of free and brave people" needs to be rebuilt.
"Wake up, Poland! Especially in times when the authorities are trying to destroy democracy, politicise all independent institutions, when in practice they lead us out of the European Union or put us on the margins, that's when we talk about freedom," he said.
"We, the nation, all of you from all over Poland, have the right to clearly say what kind of Poland we want. We want a democratic, open and European Poland," Trzaskowski added.
He also said that the parliamentary elections due in the autumn "are about freedom from people who want to teach us how to live, want to indoctrinate schools, trample women's rights and attack all minorities,"
"We've had enough!" Trzaskowski added.
Piotr Mueller, the government spokesman, commented on the march on Twitter.
"Today, the chairman of the Civic Platform and the former president of Poland are trying to overthrow the government that broke with the reset policy in relations with Russia, which was designed by Donald Tusk and Radosław Sikorski (foreign minister in Tusk government)," Mueller wrote.
The march is one of the biggest political demonstrations seen in Poland in recent years.