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Government wants to restrict 'fun demos'

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Udo J├╝rgens in a bathrobe. Photo: APA/dpa
14:13 CEST+02:00
Austria's government is considering how to move demonstrations away from Vienna's Ringstrasse after complaints that the city centre's main boulevard is closed almost every week - sometimes for frivolous causes.

Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner (ÖVP) said that Tuesday’s planned “bathrobe parade” in honour of Austrian singer Udo Jürgens's 80th birthday made the idea of freedom to demonstrate “ridiculous”.

On Tuesday the Ringstrasse will be closed from 1.30 pm and the parade (organised by Vienna’s waxworks museum Madame Tussauds) will make its way from the Opera to the Prater. Participants will be entered into a competition to win flights and bathrobes.

Jürgens, who won the Eurovision Song Contest for Austria in 1966, often holds concert encores wearing a white bathrobe alone at his piano.

The parade has been criticized by the tabloid Kronen Zeitung as well as Vienna traders, police, and the mayor Michael Häupl.

Mikl-Leitner admitted that it was too late to stop the parade going ahead but that police officers would be encouraged to “use friendly persuasion to move the organizers into side streets".

Mikl-Leitner said that the freedom to demonstrate was one of "the greatest achievements of democracy", but that some rallies were making the idea seem "​​ridiculous".

She added that too often demonstrations on the Ringstrasse just annoyed people and failed to raise awareness of any important issue.

Österreich paper claims that Vienna is the European demonstration capital, with the Ringstrasse closed every 4.5 days.

Last year 10,573 rallies were held in Vienna - far more than in bigger cities such as Berlin - and the Ringstrasse was shut 80 times for demonstrations or events.

Every demonstration has to be policed, usually by around 50 police officers, at a cost of several thousand euros each time.

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