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Cop seriously injured in right-wing ball protest

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Cop seriously injured in right-wing ball protest
Photo: APA
23:14 CET+01:00
A series of protests saw thousands of police on the streets of Vienna, with one police officer hospitalized with serious injuries by a firework thrown by a protestor on Friday evening.

A group of right-wing and conservative ball goers gathered for their annual Academic's Ball at the Hofburg on Friday night, knowing that thousands of protestors had gathered to block their access, opposed by overwhelming numbers of police.


Photo: APA

Official police estimates suggest there were around 5,000 protestors, who were facing off against 2,500 police officers.

The Akademikerball replaced the controversial WKR Ball which ran as part of Vienna's annual ball season until three years ago. It was traditionally organised by student fraternities, which included far-right members from across Europe.

Freedom Party Support

It is organized and strongly supported by the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), and is resolutely opposed by far-left and socialist activists, who unite to disrupt the ball experience in protest against what they see as supporters of neo-Nazi, Islamophobic and racist ideologies.

As the ball was marred by violence in 2014, police were taking no chances, and had already banned two of the planned marches from being allowed to gather to protest.

Additionally, police took the unprecedented step of locking down almost half of the inner city, stretching from St. Stephen's Square to the Volkstheater.

Hundreds of police manned barricades, blocking access to every side street, while thousands more formed flying columns, able to move quickly into position to block movements of protestors, as well as kettling unruly mobs.

Police Officer Injured

Initial protests were peaceful, but at least one police officer was seriously injured by a firecracker, and had to be taken to hospital for treatment.

Several arrests were made, and at least two people were slightly injured in the area near the Museum Quarter.

Police made the decision to block access to the subway at St. Stephens Square for at least half an hour, with U1 and U3 trains completely bypassing the station, according to The Local's reporter on the scene.

At Schwarzenberg Square and Karlsplatz up to 35 arrests were made when protestors attempted to block the road, while some allegedly slashed the tires of parked cars.  There were sporadic reports of limited property damage, including rubbish bins torn from their mounts on poles.

A peaceful concert at Heldenplatz (Hero's Square) saw around 2,000 people entertained with a free concert that emphasized tolerance and acceptance, and remembrance of the victims of Nazi concentration camps.

Taxi Protest

According to Agence France-Presse, this year a number of Viennese taxi drivers clubbed together using Facebook to boycott the ball and refuse to take participants to the event at the Austrian capital's former imperial palace, the Hofburg.

Last year's event led to scuffles between police and militants which left 20 people injured.

 

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