Warsaw: Hundreds of young people from Poland and elsewhere in Europe hurled cobblestones and bottles at police during Independence Day marches in Warsaw on Friday, seriously injuring three officers. Police responded with tear gas and water cannons.
Dressed in black, with scarves hiding their faces, young people threw bottles, firecrackers and stones at riot police in downtown Warsaw, where groups of rightist and leftist activists were holding separate Independence Day marches.
The clashes came amid a large presence of riot police, with the day seen as a major test of the country`s security capabilities before the Euro 2012 football championship, which Poland will co-host with Ukraine next summer.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk vowed to make sure those arrested for attacking police are severely punished, his spokesman Pawel Gras said.
Eight officers were injured, including three who were hospitalised with serious injuries, according to police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski. It wasn`t immediately clear how many others were injured, but some people could be seen on the street with blood on their faces.
PAP news agency said nationalist flags were flying over the attacking crowd, as well as the national colours of Slovakia, Croatia and Serbia.
Police said the situation was brought under control after they used water cannons and tear gas. Earlier in the day, another aggressive group attacked police and were detained. Many among them were anarchists from Germany, police spokesman Maciej Karczynski said.
Among the injured was Patryk Bartoszewski, a 19-year-old who had crouched down to take photos of the clashes when a man in black kicked his camera into his face. Bartoszewski stood on the side of a street holding an ice pack to his bleeding face as he waited for an ambulance.
He said couldn`t tell whether his attacker was from a far-right or other group. "And I don`t care," he said.
Bartoszewski was later taken to a hospital where he awaited treatment alongside two far-right activists — one who was attacked by a German anti-fascist protester and the other whose hand was injured after he forgot to throw firecrackers he was holding.
Earlier in the day, President Bronislaw Komorowski called for a day free of aggression as he reviewed troops and laid a wreath to fallen soldiers during state observances in downtown Warsaw. Troops — some in historic uniforms and on horseback — then held a parade through the city as thousands of Warsaw residents turned out to watch.
Friday marks 93 years since Poland regained independence in 1918 after more than a century of foreign rule by Russia, Austria and Prussia.