WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Church bells tolled as tens of thousands in Poland’s northern city of Gdansk walked in a procession Friday bringing the coffin of the city’s slain mayor to a basilica on the eve of his burial.
Mayor Piotr Adamowicz, 53, died Monday after being stabbed Sunday night at a charity event by an ex-convict with a grudge against an opposition party that Adamowicz once belonged to. The assailant is under arrest. The slaying took place as Poland faces a deep political divide over actions by the conservative ruling Law and Justice party.
Naval officers in dress uniforms escorted the black hearse on its way from the museum of the Solidarity freedom movement, where the coffin of the six-term mayor had lain in state, to the Gothic St. Mary’s Basilica, where Adamowicz will be laid to rest on Saturday.
Led by Gdansk Archbishop Leszek Slawoj Glodz and other prominent figures, the procession winded down the streets that Adamowicz had once walked, past his childhood home where his parents still live and past schools that he once attended.
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Adamowicz’s wife and daughters walked among the crowd.
In a moving gesture, the coffin was brought into the basilica by six city mayors, including Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.
European Union top official Donald Tusk, a personal friend of Adamowicz, attended a Catholic Mass that Glodz celebrated at the crowded basilica, to the sound of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.
European Parliament head Antonio Tajani said on Twitter that Polish and European Union flags were to be lowered to half-staff at the parliament for Adamowicz “in solidarity with his loved ones and the people of Gdansk.”
Earlier Friday, around 300 city mayors and councilors from across Poland gathered to honor Adamowicz with a special session at the port city’s historic shipyard where Poland’s anti-communist Solidarity movement was born in 1980. An epitaph written after his death was played on a church carillon that Adamowicz had helped to restore.
Tusk, the nation’s former prime minister, as well as Poland’s current and previous presidents and prime ministers and other top figures from abroad are expected at the funeral Saturday.