Walesa Vows to Confront Polish Ruling Party Chief Over Democracy

Lech Walesa, the man who helped bring down communism in eastern Europe, accused Poland’s government for breaching the constitution and backsliding on democracy and vowed to confront ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in a protest next week.

A day before U.S. President Donald Trump visits Warsaw, Walesa and Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, a fellow leader of the Solidarity movement that helped topple the Iron Curtain, published a letter on the front page of newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. They said they needed to uphold democratic values that were being taken away by Kaczynski’s Law & Justice Party.

The former Solidarity leaders said they would join a July 10 protest along the route of a monthly procession led by Kaczynski to commemorate the 2010 plane crash in Smolensk, Russia that killed his brother, Lech, who was then president. The sit-in demonstration, led by a group called Citizens of the Republic of Poland, usually attracts several dozen people and has led to scuffles, with Frasyniuk carried away by police during the last march on June 10.

“We’re standing for basic civic freedoms and the right to assembly being taken away from us,” Walesa and Frasyniuk wrote. “On July 10, we the citizens will stand and face Jaroslaw Kaczynski to protect our rights.”

The protest began after parliament passed a law that privileges “recurring assemblies,” a classification that includes the monthly procession Kaczynski leads. The measure bans other gatherings that may conflict with those that are protected.

The law is one of a string of measures enacted by the Law & Justice government led by Beata Szydlo that opposition leaders and some European Union countries have criticized as suppressing democratic rights. The EU’s executive commission launched a probe last year into whether Poland is upholding the bloc’s values, its first-ever such inquiry.

Kaczynski, who wields the power behind Szydlo’s cabinet despite holding no government position, was once a close ally of Walesa. The two fell out in 1991 when Walesa, who was serving as president, fired Kaczynski as his chief of staff, sending him into opposition for a decade.

Earlier this year, a national institute investigating communist files said Walesa was a paid, secret informant of Poland’s communist-era secret services. Walesa denied the claims as “absurd.”

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