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Rioters clash in Polish capital

Protesters take part in an annual march through central Warsaw city to mark the 95th anniversary of Poland's Independence Day in Warsaw, Poland, Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. Many far-right protesters gather at the annual event.(AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

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By Reuters
Monday, Nov. 11, 2013, 9:57 p.m.

WARSAW — Polish police used rubber bullets on Monday to break up groups of masked far-right youths who threw firecrackers and set fire to cars when a nationalist march through the center of the capital turned violent.

The march is an annual event to commemorate Poland's national independence day, and for the third consecutive year, it broke down into running battles in the middle of Warsaw between rioters and riot police.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk said what should have been a holiday had been ruined by acts of aggression and violence. “What happened is unacceptable,” he said.

Several thousand right-wing protesters began their march peacefully — watched by their own stewards in orange vests and with a police helicopter circling above.

The violence started when a few dozen youths, their faces covered by balaclavas and scarves, broke off from the procession into a side street and started attacking a building where left-wing radicals occupied a squat.

Riot police moved in and were attacked by youths throwing firecrackers and stones. As rioters dispersed, cars were set on fire.

The violence underscores the faultlines in Polish society. Many Poles have grown wealthier in the past few years, but a minority feel alienated and believe traditional values on marriage, abortion and the church have been swept aside.

Their growing profile in Poland mirrors the rise of the far-right elsewhere in Europe. The pain of the economic slowdown around the continent, coupled with local factors, has boosted support for nationalists and anti-immigrant groups in countries from Greece to Hungary and France.

In Poland, nongovernmental watchdogs say incidents of racially motivated violence are increasing.

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