On the morning of December 13th, 1981 the communist government of the People’s Republic of Poland introduced martial law in an attempt to crush growing political opposition. General of the Army Wojciech Jaruzelski soberly addressed the Polish nation on television declaring that “our homeland is at the edge of an abyss.”
Thousands of opposition political figures were jailed including Lech Wałęsa as the key institutions of the state and economy were placed under military management. Civil liberties were dramatically curtailed and aggressive censorship introduced upon media outlets and within the education system. The state of emergency was finally lifted on July 22, 1983.
35 years later, thousands of demonstrators harnessed the anniversary of this symbolic date to voice their growing alarm and opposition to government actions seen as undermining civil society and democratic principles. Gathering at the Rynek, the protesters read aloud a long list of grievances against the government’s political moves regarding the court system, mass media and the right to assemble.
Creating a parallel between the introduction of martial law and the growing authoritarian tendencies of the current government, demonstrators symbolically ‘toppled’ a life-sized statue resembling ruling Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński.
Supporters of the ruling party say the demonstrators were wildly overreacting. Referring to the organizers’ call to action to mobilize and resist the new measures, Mr.Kaczyński added, “It is an anti-state summons and in effect, we are dealing with criminal activity,” reported Radio Poland.