EurActiv.com

EU news and policy debates across languages

01/07/2016

Thousands back democracy icon Walesa at Polish rally

Central Europe

Thousands back democracy icon Walesa at Polish rally

March in support of Lech Wałęsa. [Civic Platform]

Some 15,000 people gathered in the Polish city of Gdansk on Sunday (28 February), police said, in a show of support for Solidarity freedom hero Lech Wałęsa as he battles allegations he was a paid secret agent during the Communist period.

The crowds massed at the northern city’s Solidarity Square — named after the trade union once led by Wałęsa, the Nobel Peace Prize winner renowned for negotiating a bloodless end to communism in Poland in 1989.

Rumours have long swirled that Wałęsa, who later served as president, covertly fed the Communist regime information while leading the Soviet bloc’s only independent trade union.

The ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has in recent weeks levelled fresh allegations based on newly-published documents dating back to the Communist era.

Wałęsa has strongly denied the claims, telling the media yesterday: “All of it is made up.”

His wife Danuta was among the crowds gathered in Gdansk around a giant Polish flag and three huge concrete crosses erected as a tribute to victims of Communist oppression.

The protest was organised by the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), a movement that has sprung up in opposition to controversial policies adopted by the right-wing government that came into power in October.

“We have come together for this man who was, and who remains, a hero for us,” said KOD activist Radomir Szumelda.

Wałęsa’s wife was applauded by the crowd as she told them: “If Lech Wałęsa had not spoken to the Communists, he would have achieved nothing — we would not be here, and God knows how events would have turned out.

“I can guarantee that he never hurt anyone, he never betrayed anyone or sold them out, and that he never accepted any money.”

A similar KOD demonstration in the capital Warsaw on Saturday (27 February) drew around 15,000 people to the streets, in support of Wałęsa and rallying “in defence of democracy”.

KOD has been organising street demonstrations since November against controversial reforms giving the right-wing government more control over the constitutional court, media and other institutions in a move that has alarmed the European Union.