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New protests erupt in Warsaw as Polish political crisis deepens

The protests of the past two days erupted over a government plan to restrict the access of journalists to lawmakers in parliament.


 

WARSAW, Poland — Opponents of Poland’s populist government protested outside the presidential palace Saturday, demanding that he protect the young democracy’s constitution from government steps they deem anti-democratic.

The protest came amid rising political tensions over ruling party policies under chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski and follows a large spontaneous demonstration Friday outside parliament.

In reaction, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo was to make a televised address Saturday night.

The protests of the past two days erupted over a government plan to restrict the access of journalists to lawmakers in parliament.

“This conflict is entering a new, more aggressive phase,” said Szymon Roginski, a photographer who joined the protest with his two young sons. “Every day we hear news that makes us understand that we are further and further away from democracy. People have had enough.”

The crowd of a few thousand in Warsaw chanted “Freedom! Equality! Democracy!” and waved Polish and European Union flags, a reflection of the pro-European views of many liberal, urban Poles who oppose the conservative ruling Law and Justice party.

The party, which has increased welfare spending, still remains popular with many Poles, particularly those outside of the cities and on modest incomes.

Some protesters held up copies of the constitution. They also chanted “Solidarity!” reflecting how many link today’s protests to the anti-communist opposition of the past. A large police presence was visible on the edge of the protest and also guarded the Parliament building.

The protests of Friday and Saturday were organized by the civic group Committee for the Defence of Democracy and two opposition parties, Civic Platform and Modern.

Ryszard Petru, head of Modern, told the crowd that Poles would not accept the “dictators” who are trying to restrict the access of journalists to parliament.

In the biggest parliamentary crisis in years, opposition lawmakers protested that plan Friday, blocking a vote on the state budget. Governing party members then voted in another hall, which the opposition says was illegal. It is now demanding a repeat vote.

Kaczynski on Friday denounced the obstruction of parliament as “hooliganism” and threatened protesters with consequences. He said the proposed changes to media access are no different from those in many other European nations.


 

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