Tear gas fired as police block Warsaw march against abortion ruling

Police have blocked protesters from marching in Poland's capital as demonstrations took place across the country against an attempt to restrict abortion rights and recent police violence.

Officers and protesters played a game of cat and mouse in Warsaw as officers set up cordons which the protesters sought to evade, pushing them to try to regroup elsewhere in the city centre.

At one point, protest participants gathered on a major thoroughfare, causing traffic to back up. As drivers honked, the protesters shouted: "We are sorry for the inconvenience, we have a government to overthrow."

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WARSAW, POLAND - 2020/11/28: Protesters hold burning flares during the demonstration. A pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote following several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, POLAND - 2020/11/28: Protesters shout slogans during the demonstration. A pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote following several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Paramedics help opposition deputy Barbara Jaruga-Nowacka after she has been sprayed with tear gas during a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on November 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide wave of protests since October 22 against Poland's near-total ban on abortion. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Police removes demonstrators while they block the traffic during a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on November 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide wave of protests since October 22 against Poland's near-total ban on abortion. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators light flares as they take part in a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on November 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide wave of protests since October 22 against Poland's near-total ban on abortion. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators talk to the police during a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on November 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide wave of protests since October 22 against Poland's near-total ban on abortion. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
A demonstrator holds a red lighting bolt, the symbol of women's strike movement, as he takes part in a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on November 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide wave of protests since October 22 against Poland's near-total ban on abortion. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WARSAW, POLAND - NOVEMBER 28: A woman wears a protective face mask and holds the woman strike flag during a pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law on November 28, 2020 in Warsaw, Poland. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote follows several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
WARSAW, POLAND - NOVEMBER 28: Riot police takes security measures around the Interior Ministry during a pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law on November 28, 2020 in Warsaw, Poland. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote follows several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 25: Supporters of Polish Women for abortion demonstrate in front of the European Parliament on the side of the plenary session where Rule of Law and Poland will be debate and on the day celebrating the International Day for Combating Violence Against Women in Brussels, Belgium, on November 25, 2020. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 25: Supporters of Polish Women for abortion demonstrate in front of the European Parliament on the side of the plenary session where Rule of Law and Poland will be debate and on the day celebrating the International Day for Combating Violence Against Women in Brussels, Belgium, on November 25, 2020. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - NOVEMBER 25: Supporters of Polish Women for abortion demonstrate in front of the European Parliament on the side of the plenary session where Rule of Law and Poland will be debate and on the day celebrating the International Day for Combating Violence Against Women in Brussels, Belgium, on November 25, 2020. (Photo by Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Demonstrators take part in a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on November 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide wave of protests since October 22 against Poland's near-total ban on abortion. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators take part in a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on November 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide wave of protests since October 22 against Poland's near-total ban on abortion. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Police secures the road as demonstrators try to block the traffic during a pro-choice protest in the center of Warsaw, on November 28, 2020, as part of a nationwide wave of protests since October 22 against Poland's near-total ban on abortion. (Photo by Wojtek RADWANSKI / AFP) (Photo by WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
WARSAW, POLAND - 2020/11/28: Protesters block a police van during the demonstration. A pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote following several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, POLAND - 2020/11/28: A woman wears a face mask with a women's strike symbol during the demonstration. A pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote following several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, POLAND - 2020/11/28: Riot Police block the street during a pro choice protest. A pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote following several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, POLAND - 2020/11/28: A woman wears a face mask with a women's strike symbol during the demonstration. A pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote following several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
WARSAW, POLAND - 2020/11/28: A protester hold the European Union Flag during the demonstration. A pro-choice protest against the Constitutional Court decision on tightening the abortion law. The demonstration, on the occasion of the 102nd anniversary of Polish Women right to vote following several weeks protests across Poland over the near total abortion ban. (Photo by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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Police issued warnings that the demonstration was illegal because it had not been registered ahead of time. It also violated a pandemic-related ban on large gatherings.

"We have a right to protest," participants chanted.

Officers at one point used tear gas against an opposition legislator, Barbara Nowacka, who had been intervening "in defence of peacefully protesting women," said Borys Budka, the head of Poland's centrist Civic Platform party.

Protesters in the capital began their demonstration by symbolically "renaming" a central square to Women's Rights Roundabout. An activist climbed on to a ladder on a van to hang a new street sign over the official one reading Roman Dmowski Roundabout.

Women's rights activists want authorities to formally approve the name change. They say it would honour a movement for equality rather than Mr Dmowski, a statesman who had a key role in helping Poland regain national independence in 1918, but who was also an anti-Semite.

Protests in Krakow, Gdansk and other cities were organised to celebrate Polish women gaining the right to vote 102 years ago. The events were planned under the slogan "In the name of mother, daughter, sister".

The demonstrations are part of what has evolved into Poland's largest protest movement since communism fell in the country 30 years ago.

An October 22 ruling by the Polish constitutional court to ban abortions of foetuses with congenital defects, even when the foetus has no chance of survival at birth, sparked the protests.

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