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Police APC protects right-wing vigil for murder victim

Police drove armoured vehicles into Vienna’s Yppenplatz on Sunday, after members of the far-right Identitarian group, who were holding a ‘vigil’ in memory of a woman who was allegedly murdered by an illegal immigrant last week, clashed with left-wing activists.

Police APC protects right-wing vigil for murder victim
A police APC in Ottakring. Photo: ORF

The Identitarian group had registered the vigil with the police, and said between 50 and 100 people would attend. In the end, only three people turned up, and organisers tweeted that the event had been cancelled.

However, a group of left-wing activists had heard about the planned vigil and around 120 people turned up at Yppenplatz to protest. “The counter-demonstrators surrounded the three Identitarians. There were reports that they had baseball bats and firecrackers,” police spokesman Paul Eidenberger said.

Police armoured vehicles, a helicopter, special forces officers, and dog-handler teams were dispatched to the square in Vienna’s 16th district. There were no reports of any injuries, although police said they were attacked by some of the protestors.

Eidenberger said that between 50 and 100 officers were deployed. “We knew that a large crowd had gathered and there were reports that some people were armed. We had to use a lot of manpower, even if now it looks like an exaggerated response. The aim was to prevent damage to property, personal injury, and to keep the streets quiet. Luckily the whole thing was peacefully resolved,” he added.

Many of the left-wing protestors quickly disappeared down side streets and into local bars. Two people were arrested.

Tom Müller, a spokesman for the left-wing group NoFascism, said that the spontaneous counter-demonstration was a success. “We succeeded in preventing a far-right vigil and public appearance by right-wing extremists in the district,” he said. He added that the planned vigil was a provocation and an attack on the district's alternative and migrant-dominated community. 

A Kenyan man has been remanded in custody for allegedly battering 54-year-old Maria Eschelmüller to death with an iron bar in the early hours of Wednesday morning, in what was apparently a random attack.

The 21-year-old suspect is homeless, and arrived in Austria aged 14 on a tourist visa that has long since expired.

Eschelmüller’s husband said he plans to sue the Austrian government, as the man was known to be violent and police say he had been charged with various offences in the past.

“Everyone on Brunnenmarkt knew this man and knew that he’s dangerous. The police knew him and knew his location. Why did they not take him somewhere where he couldn’t harm anyone?” he told the Krone newspaper.

CRIME

EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

Following the suicide of an Austrian doctor who received threats from Covid-19 anti-vaccination activists, the government has now launched a new campaign to help victims of online abuse.

EXPLAINED: What to do if you experience online abuse in Austria

The Austrian medical community was left in shock in July when Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, a local doctor in Seewalchen am Attersee in Upper Austria, took her own life following months of online abuse.

Kellermayr, 36, had been targeted by anti-vaccination activists and Covid-19 conspiracy theorists for her out-spoken support of vaccines, and the abuse even included death threats. 

Her death prompted candlelight vigils and demonstrations in Vienna and the tragic story was picked up by news outlets around the world.

READ MORE: How Austria’s attempt to make vaccines mandatory changed the country

This led to calls for tighter laws against online bullying and the ability for perpetrators to be prosecuted in other EU countries – particularly as at least two of the people who are believed to have targeted Kellermayr are based in Germany, according to the Guardian.

The Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) has even called for the creation of a special public prosecutor’s office to deal with “hate-on-the-net”, but this has been rejected by prosecutors and other political parties, as reported by ORF.

Instead, the Federal Justice Department has launched a new information campaign, website and hotline to help people dealing with online abuse.

FOR MEMBERS: What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

What is in the new campaign?

Austria’s Justice Minister Alma Zadic (Greens) said they have launched the campaign to raise awareness about the issue and to inform victims about the support available.

Zadic said: “It is important to me that those affected know that they are not alone in this situation and that the judiciary supports them with free psychological and legal process support.”

“You don’t have to cope alone with the extraordinary burdens that criminal proceedings can entail, for example through confrontation with the perpetrators.”

READ ALSO: Austria in shock over doctor’s suicide following anti-vax abuse

Part of the support package is the new website Hilfe bei Gewalt (Help with Violence), which details how to access help from the authorities, as well as secure free legal advice and representation from a lawyer.

The website states the service is for victims of bullying and/or hate online, defamation, stalking, terrorism, incitement, sexual violence and robbery.

The service is designed to be anonymous with options to contact the Justice Department by phone or via a chat box. The website also lists contact details for regional support services in all provinces across Austria. 

The free (kostenlos) hotline for Hilfe bei Gewalt is 0800 112 112.

Useful links

Hilfe bei Gewalt

Austrian Federal Justice Department

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