Thousands protest against COVID-19 restrictions in Vienna

Nov 20. 2021: Thousands of people, many of them right-wingers, protested against the Corona virus restrictions in Vienna on Saturday, a day after the Austrian government announced a new lockdown and made vaccines mandatory next year.

Whistling, clapping, blowing horns and playing drums, the mob entered Heroes Square in front of Hofburg, the former royal palace in central Vienna. Many demonstrators waved Austrian and other flags and carried placards with slogans such as “No vaccinations”, “Enough is enough” or “End of 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 sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), 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.

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