Warsaw’s mayor has banned a pro-Palestinian demonstration this weekend which was to finish outside the Israeli embassy, citing security concerns and anti-Semitism at a previous demonstration.
Rafał Trzaskowski banned the demonstration which was to be held on Saturday, under the slogan “Not one more bomb – free Palestine”.
Organisers, who expected 2,000 people to attend, will lodge a judicial appeal against the decision.
The decision was “purely about security” and unrelated to the march’s slogan, says city hall spokeswoman Monika Beuth.
The demonstration had been planned to end in front of the Israeli embassy, in a narrow street that was difficult to police, she sayas. Police raised fears of “radical actions increasing the threat of terrorism”.
Israeli embassy staff, and the possibilities of thrown objects or attempts at forced entry to its premises.
Warsaw has seen several demonstrations supporting both Israel and Palestine since the Hamas terrorist attack of 7 October, all peaceful.
Trzaskowski is a former presidential candidate and a deputy leader of Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition (KO).
In a pro-Palestine march last month in Warsaw, a Norwegian medial student held a banner showing Israel’s flag being thrown in a bin.
The accompanying words, “Keep the world clean”, led to protests from the Israeli embassy.
Many felt the choice of words insensitive given that Warsaw was the cite of the Ghetto Uprising during the Second World War.
“In a city like Warsaw, which was particularly affected by the extermination and persecution of Jews during World War II… there can be no place for hatred and anti-Semitism or any manifestation thereof,” the city says.
March organisers are appealing the mayor’s decision, saying it violates the constitutional values of freedom of speech and assembly.
“Solidarity with Palestine cannot be banned”, they say. They plan to assemble in a public square in Warsaw on the day when the demonstration was planned.
Polish public opinion largely favoured Israel following the Hamas attack.
The Polish foreign ministry has pressed for a ceasefire in Israel’s response, and pressed Israel to help Polish citizens leave Gaza.
Trzaskowski and his administration previously tried to ban the annual 11 November independence day marches, arguing that they attracted racist and xenophobic symbols.
Courts did not uphold these attempts, and in recent years the marches have passed peacefully.