In coronavirus-infested Austria, two days after the entry into force of a new generalized lockdown and with the vaccination obligation in sight, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Vienna to protest against what they consider a “fascist dictatorship “. In a paradox that goes beyond the Austrian borders, the demonstration was animated above all by groups of the far right, including the Freedom Party, the no-vax MFG party and the ultra-right Identitari.
Saturday’s march began in Vienna’s impressive Heldenplatz square. About 1,300 agents deployed; at least 35,000 protesters, the vast majority without masks. Many demonstrators waved Austrian flags and carried signs with slogans such as “no vaccinations”, “enough”, “down with the fascist dictatorship”. Most of the cartels targeted the government’s decision to introduce compulsory vaccination starting February 1: “My body, my choice”, “Let’s stand up for our children!”. Among the most targeted figures, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Minister of Health Wolfgang Mueckstein, both described as tyrants. Also in the square is the reconstruction of a gallows, with the words “sic semper tyrannis”.
Police reported scuffles with law enforcement and a dozen arrests – fortunately nothing to do with the “orgy of violence” denounced by the mayor of Rotterdam about the clashes that took place on Friday evening in the Dutch city, where seven people are were injured and the police opened fire on the demonstrators, wounding two. Other demonstrations against anti-Covid restrictions took place in Italy, Switzerland and Croatia, in a climate of increasing polarization between vaccinated and non-vaccinated.
Among the many Austrian flags, some Italian flags and a banner have also sprung up: “We are the Italian people”, a slogan that recalls those already used by the no-vax demonstrators in the protests held in our country.
Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl, forced into isolation because he tested positive for the virus this week, made a video appearance at the rally, denouncing what he called “totalitarian” measures imposed by a government “convinced it can think and decide for us “.
The lockdown in Austria will start on Monday and will initially last 10 days. At that point a new evaluation will be made and it can be extended up to a maximum of 20 days. Most shops will close and cultural events will be canceled. People will only be able to leave the house for certain specific reasons, including shopping, going to the doctor, or exercising. The Austrian government also said that starting February 1, the country will make vaccinations mandatory. Austria has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, and state hospitals have warned their intensive care units are reaching maximum capacity. Average daily deaths have tripled in the past few weeks. According to government data, only 66% of the 8.9 million Austrians are fully vaccinated.
Chancellor Schallenberg apologized to all vaccinated people on Friday night saying it was not fair that they should suffer from the new restrictions when they had gone to great lengths to help contain the virus. “I’m sorry to take this drastic step,” he told public broadcaster Orf.
In neighboring Switzerland, a few thousand people protested against an upcoming referendum on the approval of new anti-Covid measures, claiming they were discriminatory, according to the public broadcaster SRF. One day after the Rotterdam uprising, thousands of people gathered in Amsterdam’s central Dam Square to protest government restrictions, despite organizers overturning the protest. They walked peacefully through the streets of the city, under the watchful eye of the police. Several hundred demonstrators also marched through the city of Breda in southern Holland.
In Northern Ireland, several hundred people opposed to vaccination passports protested outside Belfast City Hall, where the city’s Christmas market was opened on Saturday, access to which is limited to those with proof of vaccination or a negative test. The government voted this week to introduce vaccination certificates for entry to nightclubs, bars and restaurants starting December 13. Some protesters carried placards that were widely criticized as offensive, comparing the coronavirus restrictions with the actions of Nazi Germany.
In Croatia, thousands of people gathered in the capital Zagreb, carrying Croatian flags, nationalist and religious symbols, along with banners against vaccinations and what they describe as restrictions on people’s freedoms.
In France, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin condemned the violent protests on the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, one of France’s overseas territories. Darmanin said 29 people were arrested by police overnight. Authorities have sent another 200 police officers to the island and will impose a nighttime curfew from 6pm to 5am on Tuesday. Protesters organized roadblocks and set cars on fire. They denounce the health pass decided by Paris, necessary to access restaurants and cafes, cultural venues, sports arenas and long-distance travel. They are also protesting against mandatory vaccinations in France for health workers. From Guadeloupe to Vienna, the diehards of no promise to raise their voices again and again.