Poles outraged over controversial bill take to the streets

Demonstrators in Warsaw on Sunday protested against a proposed judicial reform.

Story highlights

  • Many Poles want their president to veto a controversial judicial reform
  • The controversial law will force current Supreme Court judges to retire

Warsaw, Poland (CNN)Thousands of chanting and flag-waving protesters took to the streets in this Polish capital Sunday evening to demonstrate against a controversial bill putting the Supreme Court under government control.

In a rally at the Presidential Palace, demonstrators wielded Polish and European Union flags, held posters saying "constitution" and "I love and understand freedom," and shouted "we want a veto," "free court" and "free Poland."
    Protesters in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw on Sunday.
    After the throng dispersed, many continued their protests at other locations, in front of the High Court and at the Sejm, Poland's lower house of parliament.
    Critics have slammed the legislation's passage as a blatant power grab by President Andrzej Duda and his right-wing Law and Justice Party (PiS), but the party insists it is simply carrying out needed judicial reform.
    Key to the legislation is that current Supreme Court judges would be forced into early retirement and new judges would be appointed by the Justice Ministry.
    Protesters hold posters reading "constitution" during a protest in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.
    The President has 21 days to sign or veto the legislation. He is widely expected to approve it, but protesters are calling on him to reject it.
    Parliament's upper house, the Senate, approved the bill just before 2 a.m. on Saturday after 16 hours of debate, sparking mass protests in more than 100 cities across the country and a wave of condemnation from abroad. The lower house voted for the measure on Thursday.
    The move to control one of the last remaining independent government institutions has prompted concern in Washington and triggered warnings from the European Union that it is putting judicial independence at risk.