Why are anti-coronavirus protests allowed to continue in Austria?

Why are anti-coronavirus protests allowed to continue in Austria?
A man protects his bread at a coronavirus denier rally in Vienna. Photo: JOE KLAMAR / AFP
Citing rising numbers and a complicated administrative process for when demonstrations should be broken up, police in Vienna have called for this weekend’s anti-coronavirus protests to be banned.

Vienna police say there is a complicated administrative process for breaking up rallies – which requires them to secure the approval of health authorities before any protest can be stopped. 

As a result, police have called for upcoming protests – organised by the country’s growing coronavirus skeptic network – to be banned. 

Why are protests anti-coronavirus protests allowed to continue in Austria? 

Over the past few weeks, police at a number of rallies across Austria have refused to intervene, despite participants clearly ignoring distancing requirements and mask rules. 

At a protest in Vienna on Monday, October 26th, protesters burnt masks as police watched and failed to intervene. 

While political rallies – including those organised by coronavirus deniers – have continued to take place across Europe in recent months, most countries have put in place strict rules on numbers, social distancing, hygiene and mask requirements. 

In Austria although these rules exist, police have refused to intervene when rules have been broken – unlike in many neighbouring countries. 

Speaking with Austria’s Kurier newspaper, police said a magistrate needs to intervene to allow a rally to be broken up after consulting with health officials. 

“The current legal situation provides for an order from the health authorities to deal with assemblies,” said a police statement.

The City of Vienna has written to the Ministry of Health to delete the rule which states that the health authorities must be consulted. 

Ban demonstrations 'to protect the health of protesters'

With Austria set to announce its new coronavirus measures on Saturday, there are a number of demonstrations planned for the coming weekend. 

Police in Vienna have called for the protests to be banned for the benefit of those involved. 

Such an intervention would “curb a risk to the health and safety of everyone involved by tactical intervention.”

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