Police break up blockade of Poland's parliament amid political crisis

11:29 17/12/2016
Police early Saturday forcefully broke up an hours-long blockade of exits from the Polish parliament by protesters who said ruling party lawmakers violated the constitution by illegally passing the budget for next year.

The passage sparked the biggest political standoff in years in European Union member Poland and the sharpest escalation of the conflict between the opposition and the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party since it came to power in October 2015.

People demonstrate against new restrictions for media at the Polish Parliament in front of the Parliament building in Warsaw, Poland December 16, 2016. Agencja Gazeta/Franciszek Mazur/via REUTERS

The head of the PiS party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, left parliament in the early hours of Saturday after police used force to remove protesters blocking the exit from parliament, television footage showed.

"PiS has crossed a certain line and nothing will be the same again," Tomasz Siemoniak, deputy leader of the biggest opposition party Civic Platform told local media outside parliament.

Opposition party lawmaker Jerzy Meysztowicz told television network TVN24 that police used tear gas to disperse the protesters who tried to prevent the convoy of cars carrying Kaczynski and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo from leaving.

Warsaw police spokesman Mariusz Mrozek denied use of tear gas, but confirmed physical force was used to remove protesters.

Mrozek said the gathering before the parliament has been declared illegal starting from midnight.

By 0237 GMT, many protesters had left, but some remained. Several opposition lawmakers said they would spend the night in parliament.