WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Waving Polish and European Union flags, thousands of Poles marched Saturday in downtown Warsaw in the latest protest against the conservative government, whose policies critics say are dividing the nation and leading it away from EU values.
People came from across Poland for the protest organized by the Committee for the Defense of Democracy, or KOD. Warsaw police estimated that 12,000 people participated.
KOD has organized regular protests against Poland's 10-month-old Law and Justice government and party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
The march started at the building that houses Poland's Constitutional Tribunal, an independent court that EU leaders have criticized the Polish government for trying to control, in violation EU principles.
Protesters also denounced the government's backing for moves by lawmakers to ban abortion and criticized a newly-announced school reform plan that reverses a 1999 reform. Artists and public figures spoke at the march, saying they were alarmed at the course of events.
The government insists 8-year reign of its centrist, pro-EU predecessors did not serve ordinary Poles and that sweeping reforms are needed to change that.
A separate rally in Warsaw on Saturday demanded more funds for the country's chronically strapped health care system and for its medical personnel.