Poland protest , one of the largest since the end of communism in 1989, has rallied hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to Warsaw.
The majority of opposition parties have urged supporters to take part in the march against Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS). Lech Walesa and former Prime Minister Donald Tusk are among those in attendance.
The PiS has condemned the gathering in Warsaw as a “march of hate”. The mayor’s office for Warsaw has estimated half a million people attended the event, which fell on the 34th anniversary of Poland’s first partially-free elections.
Many individuals traveled from various parts of the country to actively participate Poland protest , and simultaneous demonstrations took place in other Polish cities such as Krakow. A wide variety of issues brought protests together, including frustrations over inflation, costs of living, and rights for women and LGBT.
Concerns have also been raised against new law accused of undermining Poland’s democracy. The law, criticised by the EU and US, sets up a commission to investigate undue Russian influence in Polish politics, and has the power to ban people from assuming public office for 10 years.
The government denies it is subverting democracy and President Andrzej Duda has proposed amendments to remove these powers. Critics argue that people, including Mr. Tusk – Poland’s main opposition leader and the head of the centrist Civic Platform (PO) party, could still face its potential use against them.
Opponents say it could also bolster the PiS’ standing in this year’s parliamentary elections. Pictures have captured crowds of people waving Polish and EU flags, holding placards, while participants informed the BBC that protesters chanted phrases such as “democracy” and “we will win.”
“I came here to defend democracy because I can’t stand how our parliament, the constitutional tribunal are destroyed, the European Union is diminished,” one protester told Reuters news agency. Donald Tusk, a former head of the European Council, also welcomed supporters during the “record” march.
“Democracy dies in silence but you’ve raised your voice for democracy today, silence is over, we will shout,” said Mr Tusk.
Ahead of the event, the PiS accused organisers of of hypocrisy, tweeting a video that police brutality and violence against the media while Mr Tusk was in office.
Wojciech Przybylski, editor of Visegrad Insight, told the BBC that these protests show Poland’s opposition groups can unite over common causes, despite their political differences.
But PiS is still ahead in opinion polls, he adds, and “this is going to mobilise them, because they know the opposition is for real”.