Polish farmer protests turn violent as terroristic European governments wage war against farms
03/10/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

Protests in Poland turned violent this week as tens of thousands of farmers and police clashed in the capital city of Warsaw.

The farmers are upset about two main issues that are compromising their livelihoods: European Union climate policies and Ukrainian food imports. First, they have been calling for the restrictions that were imposed on them through the EU’s Green Deal plan for addressing climate change to be amended. In addition, they want to see customs duties on agricultural imports from Ukraine that have been waived since the Russian invasion to be reimposed.

Wednesday’s protests, which were the most violent yet, began outside the prime minister’s office, with protesters marching toward parliament while farmers blocked highways going into Warsaw with their tractors. Police used batons, tear gas, stun grenades and pepper spray against protesters, some of whom threw rocks and firecrackers at police.

Supporters also turned up, many of whom were hunters, foresters and miners. Many protesters carried signs with anti-Ukrainian slogans. One person carried a coffin with a sign that read “Farmer, lived 20 years, killed by the Green Deal” while another person carried a banner that said “I want to be a farmer, not a slave to Brussels.”

In videos shared on social media, police officers can be seen hitting protesting farmers and journalists with batons and tear gas in violent scenes that shocked many locals. One video showed a protester being arrested in dramatic fashion, with a Polish flag being ripped out of his arms. At least 23 people were arrested overall.

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In a post on X, the Warsaw police defended their actions, writing: "Due to physical aggression against police officers by some of the people protesting ... it was necessary to use direct coercive measures."

Farmers’ union leader Tomasz Obszanski told Reuters that police blocked them from leaving when the protest ended. He said: "Everything was peaceful and suddenly the police came out of nowhere, there were loud bangs, the police started using (tear) gas and simply provoking people leaving the protest.”

He warned that further action would be taken after Prime Minister Donald Tusk declined to meet with them. "After what happened today, there will be a blockade of the entire country ... Poland will come to a standstill, because a Polish farmer will not allow himself to be treated in such a way, to be batonned," he cautioned.

Tusk government under pressure

The government said that some parties may have tried to take advantage of the largely legal protests to sow civil unrest. Interior Minister Marcin Kierwinski said: “I want to make it clear: We need to differentiate between two categories. The farmers, who were protesting in accordance with the law. But we were also dealing with a small group of hooligans and provocateurs who attacked the police.”

The protests are adding to the pressure on Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who recently took office and previously served as a president of the European Council; he is widely considered to be staunchly in favor of the EU. He has also expressed support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Polish farmers enjoy widespread support from citizens, and the way the protests are being handled is damaging the image of the Tusk government. Tusk has said that the farmers’ frustrations are justified and has claimed he will propose amendments to the Green Deal. He invited farmer leaders for conversations this weekend, but the concessions he has offered them so far have not been enough to win them over.

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