Follow the big issues that shape Polish politics and society by signing up to our weekly newsletter "News from Poland: Democracy at Stake". It allows you to stay up to speed on developments concerning the ongoing assault on democratic institutions, rule of law, and human rights in Poland.
On Sunday, October 10, tens of thousands of protesters all around Poland took to the streets to demonstrate against the recent judgment of the government-controlled Constitutional Tribunal which ruled that certain provisions of the EU treaties are incompatible with the Polish constitution, effectively challenging the primacy of EU law. International media outlets have called the Tribunal’s decision a "legal Polexit". That’s why the leader of Poland’s largest opposition party, Donald Tusk, called on everyone who opposes the ruling camp’s anti-EU drift to join the Sunday demonstrations. "I’m calling on everyone who wants to defend a European Poland to show up at the Castle Square in Warsaw on Sunday, 6:00 p.m. Only together can we stop them" - he wrote on Twitter.
And Warsaw has indeed responded. The rally drew some 100,000 people- a crowd unseen since the last year’s Women’s Strike protests and the first demonstration against the takeover of the Constitutional Tribunal by the ruling camp. It was impossible to get on the subway. On the platforms, one could hear: "We can do it. People, move a little. We are all going to the same place".
Janusz, one of the protesters, was going in the direction of the Castle Square carrying two flags, a red-and-white one, and an EU flag. - I am not naive. I know that a single demonstration will not lead to a change of government. More than anything else, it is a manifestation to show that Poland should be a democratic state and a member of a democratic Europe- he said.
- And to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror. This is not a matter of cold calculation. It comes from the heart, it’s an authentic need. I'm afraid that in the end, they will lead us out of the EU- adds Małgorzata. Both are in their fifties. They are worried that the protesters are mostly people their age. They say they would like to see more young people at the rally. - I think that if someone got used to certain freedoms, it is hard to imagine having to give them up – Janusz says.
Marcin Bosacki, Civic Coalition Senator: - We’re going to the rally in a group of several dozen MPs. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people are already there. It will be huge.
Donald Tusk: We’re defending Poland against usurpers
Joined by a group of his supporters, the far-right nationalist activist Robert Bąkiewicz, known for organizing the annual independence marches, also showed up at Castle Square. His declared goal: "defending Polish sovereignty against the German fifth column", i.e. Donald Tusk.
Law and Justice party politicians outdid themselves in assuring the public that they do not want to take Poland out of the EU (e.g. Jacek Sasin, a prominent member of the ruling party, took to Twitter: "We are and we will be members of the European Union"). According to ruling camp politicians, Donald Tusk purposefully called for a demonstration on October 10 in order to disrupt a mass commemorating the Smoleńsk plane crash taking place in the archcathedral in the Old Town Square.
- The ruling party's pseudo laws and pseudo rulings violate the Polish Constitution. We have the right to shout: "Constitution!". It is us now who defend Poland against usurpers- Donald Tusk said from the stage. - We want an independent, European, democratic, law-abiding, and honest Poland. Today, all of these principles are being crushed by authorities who lack conscience and morality.
Trying to drown him out, the far-right activists led by Robert Bąkiewicz played heavy metal versions of patriotic songs from their loudspeakers. The demonstrators responded by chanting: "This is Poland!".
Wanda Traczyk-Stawska, a 94-year old veteran of the Warsaw Uprising, caused an outburst of enthusiasm when she responded to Mr Bąkiewicz’s attempt to drown her out by saying – Silence, you fool! I am a soldier. I witnessed the bloodshed in this very place. Nobody will lead us out of Europe! Our homeland is Poland in Europe!
"Silence, you fool!" - chanted the protesters echoing the Warsaw uprising veteran.
Other speakers at the Sunday rally included the former Commissioner for Human Rights Adam Bodnar, the mayor of Warsaw Rafał Trzaskowski, and the former Prime Minister Leszek Miller.
- I promise we will not waste this energy of yours. The next chapter will come sooner than you think – said Donald Tusk addressing the protesters.
Finally, the anthem of the European Union, the "Ode to Joy", resounded and people began to disperse.
Pro-government media frame the protests as an „assault on the Polish constitution"
The pro-government news portal wPolityce.pl labeled Donald Tusk's address as "an angry speech of the former prime minister". According to the government-controlled public broadcaster TVP Info, what took place at Castle Square was a "protest against the Polish constitution".
After the rally, members of the Women's Strike movement announced the start of a march towards the ruling party’s headquarters at Nowogrodzka Street. Several dozen people stood there, surrounded by police, until 10:00 p.m. The police tried to ID-check the participants. - The police have no right to detain us here. They lose all cases in court. They are nothing but Kaczyński's footboys. Shame on them- said Marta Lempart, the leader of the Women’s Strike movement.
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.
We decided to make our service available to everyone free of charge in order to provide access to high quality journalism for expats and English speakers interested in Polish affairs.
The access to information should be equal for all.
Wybierz prenumeratę, by czytać to, co Cię ciekawi
Wyborcza.pl to zawsze sprawdzone informacje, szczere wywiady, zaskakujące reportaże i porady ekspertów w sprawach, którymi żyjemy na co dzień. Do tego magazyny o książkach, historii i teksty z mediów europejskich. Zrezygnować możesz w każdej chwili.