The services used pepper spray on several occasions against Protestants throwing bottles and fireworks at policemen, Austrian media reported.
After the government announced a nationwide lockdown on Friday, which is expected to take effect next Monday, opponents of the planned restrictions called for a demonstration in the capital to be held on Saturday. Over 1,300 officers from all over the country, as well as police dogs, were directed to keep order in Vienna, reported the Puls24 portal.
Right-wing extremists, pandemic deniers and anti-vaccines, as well as hooligan groups encouraged participation in the demonstration via social media (mainly Telegram).
According to the Ministry of the Interior, there were rumors of possible attacks on hospitals, editorial offices, ministries and parliament before the demonstration. “These infrastructure facilities will be specially protected” – announced the police before the demonstration. In places where there are vaccination points, the number of security service employees has increased.
During the demonstration, there was an attempt to rip a policeman’s gun out of its holster, “at least 10 people were arrested”, the media reported. There have also been at least 10 offenses relating to the promotion of Nazi and anti-Semitic ideology. “Several activists carried, for example, yellow David stars with the inscription ‘unvaccinated’ and posters referring to National Socialism” – reported Puls24.
According to the Nachrichten website, people known for their neo-Nazi and far-right views, activists of anti-vaccination movements, were seen among the participants of the demonstration. “Many opponents of the restrictions and pandemic deniers came from neighboring federal states, people from all walks of life were present. Some of the demonstrators consumed a lot of alcohol. The protests became chaotic time and time again,” describes Nachrichten.
Viennese police reported on Twitter that they were forced to use pepper spray against demonstrators who threw bottles, beer cans, firecrackers and fireworks at the officers.
In the late afternoon, the head of the Ministry of the Interior, Karl Nehammer (OeVP), thanked the police officers for their work in securing the demonstrations, Nachrichten reports. Nehammer stressed that the attacks on officers were “completely unacceptable”.
He also referred to the incidents involving the use of the yellow Star of David by demonstrators, emphasizing the indignation at the situation. “This is not only completely inappropriate, but above all it downplays the crimes of the National Socialists and offends millions of victims of the Nazi dictatorship and their families,” emphasized Nehammer.
Federal Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg (OeVP) points out that the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party (FPOe) and its attitude of negating vaccination and other security measures are to blame for introducing the blockade and restrictions.
“FPÖ was one of the organizers of today’s show in the center of Vienna” – confirms Puls24. Party leader Herbert Kickl wanted to participate, but the COVID-19 infection “thwarted his plans.” Also, the head of the FPÖ from Upper Austria (the region with the country’s highest infection rate), Manfred Haimbuchner, was seriously ill with the coronavirus. – I know how hard it is to go through it, and I want to be protected from it in the future – quotes his words “Kronen Zeitung”. That is why “it will of course be vaccinated” – he adds.
According to the police, about 35,000 people took part in the demonstration against the government’s restrictions and the announced lockdown. people. FPÖ informed about 100 thousand. demonstrators.