More than 40,000 protest vaccine mandate in Vienna
More than 40,000 people protested in Vienna on Saturday against plans to bring in compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations from February.
The draft vaccine mandate law is set to be presented to the country's parliament next week, only a week after it was first proposed at a press conference last Tuesday. The country's parliament also announced last week that it was doubling the length of the country's current lockdown to 20 days.
According to the Kronen Zeitung newspaper, protestors gathered at the Heldenplatz square at around 1pm, chanting “resistance” and “Freedom”.
The Austrian police dispatched 1,200 officers to control the protestors and keep them separate from an estimated 1,500 counter-protestors. The newspaper said that the police had also diverted a contingent from the far-right Identitäre Bewegung Österreich group towards Landstrasse, only for the extremist group to later return to the main demonstration.
One protestor bore a sign saying "no to the vaccine mandate. My body belongs to me".
Another dressed as The Joker from the film Batman, carried a sign saying "Stop this Bad Man government."
Another dressed in chains, and wore a gold tinfoil hat.
According to The Local Austria's editor, Catherine Edwards, the protests had made it difficult to cross the city centre during the day.
Protesters marched past the Viennese State Opera building.
The atmosphere was mostly peaceful, with some protestors bringing sound systems, and according to Kronen Zeitung, a large number of families with children, one of whom held a banner that said, “For love, for children and for all people”.
Most protestors were not wearing masks, which are required to be worn during large outdoor events under Austrian Covid regulations. Police repeatedly instructed the marchers to put on masks over loudspeakers.
While speeches were still being held at Heldenplatz, a group of protestors moved towards the circular Ringstrasse boulevard, where they started to set off fireworks. Soon clashes broke out between protestors and the police.
Police used smoke grenades and tear gas to control the crowd and detained several protestors.
According to the Kronen Zeitung newspaper, the protestors began to disperse and go home shortly after 4pm.