Walesa Joins Thousands in Pro-Democracy March

Crowds in Poland protest government's move toward autocracy
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 4, 2023 12:00 PM CDT
Polish Icon Joins Pro-Democracy March
Participants join an anti-government march in Warsaw on Sunday, the 34th anniversary of the nation's first democratic elections in 1989 after decades of communist rule.   (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in an anti-government protest in Poland's capital on Sunday, with citizens traveling from across the country to voice their anger at officials who they say have eroded democratic norms and created fears that the nation is following Hungary and Turkey down the path to autocracy. Large crowds also gathered in Krakow and other cities across the nation of 38 million people, the AP reports, showing frustration with a government that critics accuse of violating the constitution and eroding fundamental rights in Poland, a country long hailed as model of peaceful and democratic change.

Former President Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity movement that played a historic role in toppling communism in Poland, marched alongside the leader of the opposition Civic Platform party, former Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk. The Warsaw crowd cheered the two men, both of whom are reviled by the ruling Law and Justice party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and at times chanted "Democracy!" and "Constitution!" The crowd marched from the office of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and past the seat of President Andrzej Duda, ending at the historic Royal Castle, where Tusk hailed the huge turnout and pledged to fight to win an autumn election and undo what he described as profound harm and division inflicted on the nation.

"We are going to these elections to win and to right human wrongs. I promise you victory, a settlement of evil, compensation for human wrongs, and reconciliation among Poles," Tusk told the crowd. The government spokesman, Piotr Mueller, accused Tusk and Walesa of "trying to overthrow the government." Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, who belongs to the opposition party that led the march, estimated that 500,000 people took part. Tusk had called on Poles to march with him for the sake of the nation's future—a message that resonated for Radek Tusinski, 49, who arrived with his wife and two young children. A handmade sign reading "I cannot give up freedom" was attached to their baby stroller. Tuskinski said he worries about the creeping return of an authoritarian system similar to what he remembers from his childhood. "We want a free country for our children," he said.

(More Poland stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.