Vienna: tens of thousands of protesters against confinement and compulsory vaccination

About 40,000 demonstrators, according to police, gathered in Vienna on Saturday to protest against the containment measures and compulsory vaccination announced by the government the day before to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Read also: Austria confines its population and imposes vaccination

The crowd, gathered in the heart of the Austrian capital a stone’s throw from the former Hofburg Imperial Palace, waved banners denouncing “fascism” and “corona-dictatorship” or saying “no to the division of society.”

All under close surveillance by the police, who proceeded to a dozen arrests as well as verbalizations. Apart from a few smoke bombs and the throwing of cans, the demonstration took place in general calm.

In a statement, the Minister of the Interior Karl Nehammer was indignant at the use by participants of yellow stars bearing the inscription “Not vaccinated”, judging that such a gesture “insulted the millions of victims of the Nazi dictatorship and their families ”.

Among those calling for “resistance”, Katarina Gierscher, originally from the province of Tyrol, had driven six hours to come and demonstrate.

“It is not normal that we are deprived of our rights,” lamented this 42-year-old teacher who has kept her four children at home for several months. “The pressure at school is too strong,” she told AFP, citing the PCR tests carried out every week in the classes.

“The government wants to divide us, we must remain united,” she added, regretting “the anger of some vaccinated” against those who are not.

Martin, a 34-year-old nurse, explained “to fight for the generations to come”. “It’s a question of freedom. The integrity of our bodies is at stake, and that is not possible, ”he said.

Excuses

The rally was organized at the call of the far-right FPÖ party, even though its leader Herbert Kickl, who tested positive for the coronavirus, was absent. Members of the radical identity movement also marched.

A week after cracking down on the unvaccinated, Conservative Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced Friday a containment of 8.9 million inhabitants until December 13.

As of Monday, it will no longer be possible to leave home except for shopping, sports or for medical treatment. Only schools remain open.

Despite its initial reluctance, the government will also prepare a law to impose the vaccination of the adult population on February 1, 2022.

Schallenberg apologized to those vaccinated on Friday for having to take such “drastic” restrictions, currently unheard of in the EU.

He also attacked “political forces in this country which vehemently oppose vaccination”, denouncing an “attack on our health system”.

“The next few weeks will require a big effort on our part,” Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen said. “We must do everything in our power to break this wave and prevent the next one.”

In a Europe that has once again become the epicenter of the epidemic, cases have reached in recent days in Austria levels not seen since spring 2020: on Saturday, more than 15,000 new contaminations were identified, while the vaccination rate is around 66% of the population, slightly below the European average.

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