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Demonstration Against Tusk Government At Katyn Memorial In Jersey City, New Jersey

by John Czop

On a cold and windy January afternoon, approximately 200 freedom loving Poles and Americans demonstrated against the Tusk Government’s recent deployment of police power to repress freedom of speech by stopping Polish State-controlled media from expressing competing ideas on Poland’s relations with the European Union and on other matters. The demonstration took place at the Katyn Memorial in Jersey City, New Jersey and lasted for two hours. The demonstration showed that Americans and Poles are partners in the defense of freedom as we begin to commemorate the Quarter Millennial of the democratic revolutions which took place at the end of the 18th century in  America and Poland.

On page 15 of the New York Post, published on Christmas Day 2023, American public opinion and official United States governmental policy makers learned the facts about Poland’s Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s attacks against freedom of speech guaranteed by Poland’s constitution.  The first-rate OP-ED (opposite the editorial page) article in the New York Post by Mr. Peter Doran alerted Americans that rule of law and freedoms guaranteed by Poland’s constitution are under attack by the Tusk government.  Mr. Doran is an expert on Russia and East Central Europe.  He  served as president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, in Washington, DC, which receives funding from the Polish government and from energy companies, and is now Senior Adjunct Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

The key points of Mr. Doran’s article follow.

“Poland’s government sent baton-wielding police last week into the headquarters of TVP — the main state broadcaster.

Officials cut the feeds for two public-television channels, shut down their websites, froze their YouTube accounts and ended their live streams.

Polish televisions went blank.

The heavy-handed tactics transformed a mundane rotation of political appointees into a highly politicized drama with supercharged accusations of illegality.

It is a bad day for freedom when a government uses state power to shut down a press in any country.

This was a very bad day for Poland. The biggest victim will likely be the diversity of opinion in Polish media.

The problem for Poland is state ownership of the economy.

Successive Polish governments have expanded their control of the gross domestic product.

The state owns or controls nearly half of Poland’s 20-largest companies and employs more than 50% of all workers in this category. As a result, political elections in Poland have seismic economic consequences.”

Mr. Doran’s article is of high importance because over the past several years, many American policy makers and academics have criticized the PiS Government for “backsliding on democracy”, especially in reforms of the judiciary.  This article makes it clear that Donald Tusk, who enjoyed a favorable reputation in Washington, now is violating the rule of law.  Please see the attachments below to read my articles criticizing a book and author event at Columbia University, and my summary of Prime Minister Morawiecki’s speech, which refute allegations that PiS  was “backsliding on democracy.”  In fact, as former Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki observed in his speech at New York University Law School in April 2019, the PiS government is carrying out the Second Solidarity Revolution by retiring communist appointed judges hostile to a truly sovereign Poland.  Tusk does NOT support the Second Solidarity Revolution

Mr. Doran continued his observations on the Tusk government’s repression of freedom of speech by underlining the following points.

“The ousting of a ruling party at the Polish ballot box reshuffles the winners and losers across the economy.This includes the public airwaves, which reach between 30% and 40% of all Polish households.The former Law and Justice government expanded the state’s control over the public-broadcast sector in 2016. It passed legislation to put all public broadcasters like TVP’s network of nationwide television stations under the treasury ministry. It also granted officials the authority to hire and fire journalists and station directors. While in opposition, Tusk’s party denounced this move. Now in power, it has inherited those same sweeping authorities and expanded them — dramatically so. The changing of the guard at TVP should have been boring. A similar process occurs at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, America’s public broadcaster, following every presidential transition. Instead of using the established legal process to appoint new managers and quietly adjust the editorial tone of state-owned broadcasters as it saw fit, the Tusk government opted for a very public scorched-earth policy. Without warning, it pulled the plug on TVP’s main news channel (TVP Info) and its English-language channel that covered international news and the war in Ukraine (TVP World).  As broadcasters went dark mid-sentence, armed police ejected some TVP staff from their office. Opposition leaders cried foul and staged a ruckus sit-in.

“The political accusations flew. ‘These are completely illegal actions,’ said Polish President Andrzej Duda, denouncing the government’s move. ‘This is anarchy. Former Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki went on the warpath. ‘What we see today is violating lots of Polish laws including the Constitution,’ he declared. ‘The rule of law as such has been violated brutally here in Poland The nonpartisan staff at TVP were the most shocked’It’s barbaric. It’s done with no explanation. It’s done without any due process,’ said one TVP employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Another who also spoke off the record said, ‘It’s a bigger problem than just closing public media stations and changing directors. The government’s move implies that it can ignore laws voted on since 2016. Poland’s National Broadcasting Council chief Maciej Swirski sounded the alarm in public. ‘Turning off the television signal and websites of TVP Info is an act of lawlessness and recalls the worst times of martial law,’ he said. ‘Political objectives cannot constitute an excuse for violating or circumventing constitutional and statutory provisions.’ The tables have now turned on the Tusk government. After denouncing the former government’s influence over the public airwaves, its heavy-handed shutdown of TVP has inflamed the opposition. While the opposition still represents a plurality of voters, it has no meaningful broadcast alternatives. There is no Polish analogue to Fox News — for now.”

The demonstration at the Katyn Memorial was organized by Mrs. Boguslawa Huang, President of the Committee for the Protection of the Katyn Monument and Historical Objects,  Mr. Maciej Rusinski, North America Co-Ordinator of  Kluby Gazety Polskiej, and Mr. Tadeusz Antoniak, Commander-in-Chief of SWAP (Stowarzyszenie Weteranow Armii Polskiej w Ameryce. The organizers delivered strong speeches in defense of Polish freedom.

Mr. Andrzej Burghardt, long-serving President of the Polish American Congress New Jersey Division, who was among those put into prison on December 13, 1981, for his work on behalf of Solidarity, delivered a speech in which he called for vigilance to protect Poland’s freedom and sovereignty.

Many banners at the demonstration called on Prime Minister Tusk to resign, and identified him as an agent of anti-Poland and a friend of Russia and Germany.

Mrs. Grazyna Rusinska with a microphone invited  demonstrators to register their point of view.  This writer reminded the audience that one of the very first acts of Prime Minister Tusk was to eliminate the Polish Parliament’s Scientific Commission to investigate the Smolensk Disaster of April 10, 2010, even though the world’s leading expert on air plane disasters, Mr. Frank Taylor, an Englishman with no political axe to grind, published his findings that President Lech Kaczynski’s plane exploded ABOVE Smolensk Severny Military Airfield as the result of the detonation of two or more bombs inside the aircraft.

President Huang hoped that the large protest demonstration in Warsaw scheduled for January 11 would be peaceful.  She then led the audience in singing several Polish patriotic and religious hymns.

In the near future demonstrations against the Tusk government and for Polish freedom will take place outside the Polish Consulate General in New  York.

Photos by Adam Stepien