Austrians defy ban to protest COVID-19 restrictionsFebruary 1, 2021
VIENNA: Thousands of people, including some neo-nazis, defied a ban to march Sunday (Jan 31) in Vienna in protest against the curfew and lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Police had on Saturday announced a ban on the march after around 10,000 turned up for a similar such protest earlier in the month, many of them ignoring the safety restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus.
Many of those who took part in Sunday’s march, which was organised by the far-right FPOe party, followed suit, ignoring government regulations on mask wearing and social distancing measures.
Neo-nazi activists were among the crowd, which refused to disband and blocked traffic as it began to march towards the national parliament.
Police arrested around 10 protesters and four officers were injured during scuffles.
It was the first time that the FPOe, and member Herbert Kickl who is a former interior minister, officially called for a protest against the third Austrian lockdown.
“We are seeing unprecedented censure,” Kickl told media Saturday, before the party put in a second request for a rally permit which was also refused.
The reason for the refusal was given as a risk of increased transmission rates of new variants, and a “lack of contact traceability” among those who were to take part in the march.
Austrian schools, sports clubs, hotels, restaurants, cultural venues and many stores have been shut to stem the spread of Covid-19, but the country’s iconic ski resorts have been allowed to remain open.