Police and demonstrators clash in anti-lockdown protests in Vienna
Updated 19:30, 07-Mar-2021
Johannes Pleschberger in Vienna


Thousands of people gathered on Saturday for several illegal anti-lockdown protests in Vienna. According to the Austrian newspaper Krone, around 15,000 participants were counted and many of them were not wearing face masks. 

Demonstrators made their way through the city to a rally organized by Austrian right-wing opposition party FPO with some media reports that Gottfried Kussel, who has served 16 years in prison for neo-Nazi related offences, also present. 

There were several clashes between demonstrators, counter protesters and the police, with law enforcement officials using tear gas to separate the activists on at least one occasion.


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Former interior minister Herbert Kickl accused the government of "dancing on the edge of lunacy" in a speech to the crowd. 

"It's all so weird and mad, no Hollywood director could make it up," Kickl pronounced, refering to the remaining restrictions.

The protests, which had not been officially authorized, were dispersed by the police at around 2 p.m. local (Central European) time at Vienna's Heldenplatz. 

When the police intervened to disperse the protesters, two crowds broke away and marched through the city. The police then closed off numerous bridges and accompanied the demonstrations. A final speech took place at approximately 4 p.m. in the Prater park.

Before that, there were clashes between demonstrators and police. Officers gave out numerous fines and arrested several people including protest leader Martin Rutter, according to Krone.

"I want freedom, especially for our children," a woman told CGTN during the final speech in the Prater park. Another man said: "I am ashamed for our politicians."


Protestors rallied against the current policies of Austria's Chancellor Kurz. /CGTN

Protestors rallied against the current policies of Austria's Chancellor Kurz. /CGTN


The Austrian national anthem sounded from loudspeakers, while banners with the slogan "Kurz must go" were held aloft. Austrian and German flags could also be seen under a blue winter sky.

Organizers ended the protest event at 6 p.m. but half an hour later, police stopped several remaining protesters at Augartenstrasse street who had refused to leave.

The events of the last few weeks have damaged Austria's collective spirit. Thousands of demonstrators have been charged by police, with dozens of arrests made and numerous police officers left injured.

The country aims to lift some of its lockdown measures later this month if COVID-19 cases drop sufficiently. Demonstrators, police and the government will be praying that they do.


Video editing: Terry Wilson

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