Defenders of cross to late president rally in Poland
A thousand people rallied in Warsaw Tuesday night demanding a wooden cross for late president Lech Kaczynski and 95 other victims of April air crash stay put in front of the presidential palace.
Holding flaming torches, some praying, others singing, supporters marched peacefully through Warsaw's Old Town to the nearby presidential palace and held a two-hour vigil at the foot of the cross.
At the same time across the street, cross opponents looked on, standing behind metal barricades erected by police.
Tuesday's demonstration came just one day after a high-pitched midnight rally by thousands who want the religious symbol removed from its spot in front of the official residence of Poland's head of state.
Polish scouts spontaneously erected the cross in front of the presidential palace in central Warsaw days after the tragic April 10 crash of a Polish presidential jet in western Russia in which claimed Kaczynski, Poland's top military brass, its central bank governor and several members of parliament among other senior figures.
The official delegation was en route to ceremonies marking the 70 anniversary of a World War II Soviet massacre of thousands of Polish officers in the Katyn forest.
Dozens of people meet around the modest cross daily for prayers, to lay flowers and to light candles in memory of the victims.
Supporters and relatives of the late president, including his twin brother and conservative opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, want it to stay put as a memorial to victims of the tragic crash.
But according to an opinion poll issued this week by the independent SMG/KRC pollsters, 71 percent of Poles want the cross moved to a nearby church as agreed two weeks ago by the presidential palace, the archbishop of Warsaw and scouts groups.
However, last Tuesday, Polish authorities decided to leave the cross put amid an emotionally-charged protest by hundreds.
The crucifix has long been a strong symbol of national identity in deeply Catholic Poland, especially under communist rule when Poland was officially atheist.
President Kaczynski's death forced a snap election in which his twin stood against liberal Bronislaw Komorowski, who won the vote, was sworn-in last Friday and is to take up residence in the presidential palace.
© 2010 AFP