Thousands protest in Vienna as far-right march on COVID measures banned

Europe Materials 31 January 2021 21:55 (UTC +04:00)
Thousands protest in Vienna as far-right march on COVID measures banned

Thousands of protesters faced off with police in riot gear in Vienna on Sunday at the site of a banned far-right demonstration against coronavirus restrictions, Trend reports citing Reuters.

Vienna police banned numerous protests planned for this weekend, including one by the far-right Freedom Party on Sunday, on the grounds that protesters have generally failed to observe rules on social distancing and often not worn face masks.

Since Dec. 26, Austria has been in its third national lockdown, with non-essential shops and many other businesses closed and their staff unable to work.

The opposition Freedom Party has denounced various restrictions as “corona madness” and its leaders have sent mixed messages on issues such as vaccinations.

Freedom Party deputy leader Herbert Kickl on Saturday accused the conservative-led government of banning criticism in general. He urged his supporters to go on a walk in the capital instead of attending the banned protest, and to “articulate their displeasure peacefully”.

The affiliation of many of Sunday’s protesters was not immediately clear.

The crowd, which police estimated at 5,000, gathered on a square in central Vienna across the central ring road from the former imperial palace as well as from the offices of Kurz and President Alexander Van der Bellen.

Rows of police in riot gear and face masks prevented the crowd from marching down the ring road.