Thousands protest in Vienna against COVID restrictions before lockdown


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Thousands protest in Vienna against COVID restrictions before lockdown

VIENNA PROTEST. Demonstrators hold flags and placards as they gather to protest against the COVID-19 measures in Vienna, Austria on November 20, 2021. The placard reads, 'Kurz and Co have to go – End corona fascism.'

Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Austria has one of the lowest rates of vaccination against COVID-19 in western Europe

Thousands of people, many of them far-right supporters, protested in Vienna on Saturday, November 20, against coronavirus restrictions a day after Austria’s government announced a new lockdown and said vaccines would be made compulsory next year.

Whistling, clapping, blowing horns, and banging drums, crowds streamed into Heroes’ Square in front of the Hofburg, the former imperial palace in central Vienna. Many protesters waved Austrian and other flags and carried signs with slogans such as “no to vaccination,” “enough is enough,” or “down with the fascist dictatorship.”

Roughly 66% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Many Austrians are skeptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third-biggest in parliament.

With daily infections still setting records even after a lockdown was imposed on the unvaccinated this week, the government said on Friday it would send Austria back into lockdown as of Monday and make it compulsory to get vaccinated as of February 1.

The Freedom Party (FPO) had already been planning a show of force in Vienna on Saturday when Friday’s announcement fired up its base and prompted FPO leader Herbert Kickl to respond that “As of today, Austria is a dictatorship.”

Although Kickl could not attend because he has caught COVID-19, thousands of people answered calls by the FPO and other vaccine-critical groups to protest across the city.

“We are not in favor of our government’s measures,” said one protester who was part of a group with tin foil on their heads and toilet brushes in their hands. Like most protesters who spoke to the media, they declined to give their names, though the mood was festive. –

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