A funeral for murdered Gdansk mayor Pawel Adamowicz drew tens of thousands of people on Saturday, six days after he was stabbed to death.
Adamowicz, one of Poland’s longest-serving mayors, was attacked on stage during one of Poland’s biggest annual charity events and died the following day.
Banners with black and white pictures of the popular mayor were draped over buildings as Polish politicians including former president Lech Walesa, who helped to overturn communism in Eastern Europe, joined a mass at St Mary’s Basilica.
Broadcaster TVN24 said 3,500 mourners gathered inside the 500-year-old Gothic cathedral on Saturday, while others watched Gdansk archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz give family members rosaries and gifts sent by Pope Francis on huge screens.
European Council chief Donald Tusk and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also joined mourners who listened to the choir as they awaited the burial of Adamowicz’s ashes.
“What happened on Sunday evening ... was perceived as a violent constant sound of a alarming bell, call for saving the conscience and changing the way of our living, political style,” Glodz told mourners during the Mass.
Polish authorities have arrested a 27-year-old former convict, named only as Stefan W., over the killing. He was freed last month after serving 5-1/2 years for attempted bank robbery.
Adamowicz was known for encouraging migrants to seek refuge in Gdansk.
He also backed a campaign to defend the rule of law against what activists consider efforts by the ruling conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party to increase political control over the judiciary and other bodies.
His murder highlights the charged atmosphere in parts of eastern Europe where populist leaders have fanned nationalist sentiment.
On Friday, 53,000 people paid tribute to Adamowicz, who beat the PiS in October, while he lay in state. Police said some 45,000 people had attended the funeral.
The attacker accused the mayor’s former party of putting him in prison, where he said he was tortured, at the event.
Authorities have detained at least 10 people in recent days over calls on social media to murder and other acts of aggression in the wake of Adamowicz’s death.
Adamowicz was one of 11 Polish mayors targeted with fake death certificates by a far-right group called All-Polish Youth in 2017, after signing a declaration to welcome refugees in opposition to government policy.
Critics blame Poland’s politicians for cranking up hate speech and support for the PiS party fell to 30 percent in the wake of Adamowicz’s death.