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Climate activists start 'action week' with protests in Vienna

The Local Austria
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Climate activists start 'action week' with protests in Vienna
A group of activists from the 'Last Generation" group blocks a street in Vienna during a climate action protest. (Copyright: Letzte Generation Österreich)

Protests have started in Vienna, with authorities warning they would affect traffic conditions in the Austrian capital.

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Just as the Viennese were returning to work and school after winter and Christmas break, the environmental group Last Generation has announced an "action week", with protests scheduled throughout the city.

Every day, starting Monday, January 9th, the activists want to block central traffic junctions in Vienna. They sit in the traffic lanes and some glue themselves to the asphalt.

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"On the first day of school after the holidays, we are back on the streets to protect lives. We have created 'traffic-calm' zones in front of schools on Burggasse, Gymnasiumstrasse, Rossauer Lände and Wiedner Hauptstrasse", the group said on Twitter.

The activists call on the federal government to "finally take its own climate goals seriously". In addition, the activists want immediate implementation of measures such as a speed limit of 100km/h on the autobahn, according to a press release.

Police spokeswoman Barbara Gass confirmed several operations that had begun at 7:45 am. After less than an hour, the four actions were dissolved again. However, the Last Generation wants to continue: "We'll be back tomorrow," the group wrote on Twitter.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will I get another Klimabonus payment in 2023 in Austria?

Calls for tougher action

Several politicians in Austria have called for harsher actions against protesters. ÖVP politician Johanna Mikl-Leitner, who is running for reelection as governor of Lower Austria, was among them. 

She argued that blocking roads should not be considered administrative offences but criminal ones - with harder penalties. According to Mikl-Leitner, blocking roads may endanger human lives as rescue workers get stuck in traffic jams.

READ ALSO: How will climate change impact Austria?

She said that it is now clear that the fines imposed do not create a deterrent effect. "The impression is created that this is a trivial offence", the governor said, according to the newspaper Der Standard. Lower Austria will hold a security summit on climate blockades to determine possible measures on Tuesday.

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Last Generation activists said precautions were taken to allow for safe passage of emergency services, and one lane is always accessible during protests.

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