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Polish Independence Day marchers say they will drive, not walk

WARSAW, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Organisers of a far-right Independence Day march in Warsaw said on Monday it would take place in a motorised form with participants driving around the Polish capital, after the mayor refused to allow the event to go ahead due to the coronavirus.

The Nov. 11 march, which often brings tens of thousands of people onto the streets, is seen as a flash point between nationalists and liberals, and has been marred by violence in recent years.

“Due to all the circumstances, we thought about the formula for a long time. So that everyone can come and celebrate with us this year, we decided to use the car formula,” Witold Tumanowicz, vice-president of the association that organises the march, told reporters.

Participants are invited to gather in cars and on motorbikes at Rondo Dmowskiego in central Warsaw on Independence Day.

But a spokeswoman for Warsaw city hall said there was not enough time for the association to apply for permission to stage such an event as the process took up to 30 days.

The spokeswoman said all other official events to mark Independence Day - other than the laying of flowers - had also been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, a liberal, refused last Friday to authorise the march due to the health risks, and on Saturday a court dismissed an appeal against the ban. The organisers have appealed against that ruling.

Poland has seen spiralling infection numbers, prompting government warnings that a full nationwide lockdown may be necessary. Current restrictions ban gatherings of more than five people.

Despite such restrictions, Polish cities have seen mass street protests in recent weeks against a court ruling that imposes a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Roman Catholic country. (Reporting by Alan Charlish and Pawel Florkiewicz Editing by Gareth Jones)

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