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Protests in Poland Sparked by Perceived Assaults on Democracy


Protesters attend an anti-government demonstration, in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016.

Opponents of Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party remained in front of Poland's parliament building Saturday morning hours after police used force to remove blockades of the building's exits.

The protesters, who also are staging a new rally outside Poland's presidential palace, are opposed to a series of government steps they consider anti-democratic.

The protests occurred after the government approved a plan to restrict journalists' access to members of the parliament.

Opposition lawmakers protested the plan on Friday and blocked a vote on the 2017 budget. Ruling party lawmakers then moved to a nearby hall and approved the budget, a move the opposition said was illegal because it was impossible to confirm that the required number of legislators was present.

European Union Council President Donald Tusk called on Poland's authorities to respect the country's constitution and the rights of the protesters.

"Following yesterday's events in parliament and on the streets of Warsaw ... I appeal to those who have real power for respect and consideration of the people, constitutional principles and morals," Tusk, the country's former prime minister, said during a news conference in Wroclaw, southwest Poland.

The ruling party assumed power less than a year ago and the protests have sparked Poland's biggest parliamentary crisis in years.