| 28 May 2024, Tuesday |

Mass protest in Vienna against Austria’s controversial COVID restrictions

Tens of thousands of people marched in Vienna on Saturday to oppose new coronavirus control measures in Austria, such as forced COVID-19 vaccinations and home confinement orders for the unvaccinated.

Around 1,400 police officers were on duty to supervise the protest, which drew an estimated 44,000 people and followed a similar rally in the Austrian capital last week.

Three persons were detained, according to police, for offenses such as using pyrotechnics and failing to wear masks. According to authorities, journalists covering the event, which began at Heldenplatz square, were pelted with snow balls and ice, and one reporter was the target of an attempted assault.

The crowd was addressed by Herbert Kickl, leader of the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party, who attacked the government’s response to the pandemic. He said the public had not realised they were being “kicked in the arse” by the government, and said the protests would continue.

Separately, around 2,500 protested against the restrictions in Klagenfurt, while 150 people demonstrated in Linz.

Faced with surging daily infections, Austria last month became the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a lockdown and said it would make vaccinations mandatory from February.

Banners saying “No to compulsory vaccination” and “Hands off our children” were carried by protesters in Vienna, who chanted “We are the people,” and “resistance”.

Austria, which has a population of 8.9 million people, has reported 1.2 million coronavirus cases and more than 13,000 deaths since the pandemic began last year.

  • Reuters