Protester thwart move of cross to late Polish president

3rd August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Polish authorities decided Tuesday to leave a wooden cross dedicated to late president Lech Kaczynski in front of the presidential palace in central Warsaw after hundreds protested against its removal.

"On Tuesday the cross will not be removed from in front of the presidential palace," senior presidential aide Jacek Michalowski told reporters.

Police used tear gas against protestors who attempted to force police barricades erected around the cross site.

Last week the presidential palace, archbishop of Warsaw and scouts groups announced that the cross, erected spontaneously by scouts after the April 10 air crash in Russia in which Kaczynski perished, would be moved in August in a procession to nearby Saint Anne's church.

But supporters and relatives of the late president, including his twin brother and conservative opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, have demanded the cross remain in front of the palace as a memorial to the air crash victims.

"As Poles, as Catholics please leave this cross -- it's not bothering anyone, it can stand even for a year in memory of all those who perished in Smolensk," a protestor defending the cross in front of the palace Tuesday cried through a megaphone before the decision was taken to leave it in place.

"This is a symbol of our nation," the protestor said.

The crucifix has long been a symbol of national identity in deeply Catholic Poland, especially in the post-war period until 1989 under nearly half a century of communism when Poland was officially atheist.

Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 other Polish dignitaries including top military brass and the central bank governor were killed when their presidential jet crashed in bad weather in western Russia.

The president's death forced a snap election on July 4 in which his twin stood against liberal Bronislaw Komorowski, who won the vote.

Komorowski is due to take office on Friday when he will officially move into the presidential palace.

Dozens of people meet around the cross every day for prayers, to lay flowers and to light candles in memory of the victims.

© 2010 AFP

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