Polish police remove defenders of disputed cross to late president, but cross stays

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish police say they have removed a group of protesters from around a large cross memorializing the late President Lech Kaczynski in the heart of the capital to make way for a Sunday parade.

The supporters' removal is the latest development in a controversy about whether the tall wooden cross should remain in front of the presidential palace.

Most Poles are Roman Catholics, but legally the nation is defined as secular. The dispute has highlighted deep social divisions between traditional Catholics and modern Poles seeking a strict separation of church and state.

Police spokesman Maciej Karczynski said police asked the cross defenders to leave before dawn Saturday. Most complied, but a few had to be forcefully removed.

The cross remains in place.