Tens of thousands of demonstrators in the Austrian capital took to the streets on Saturday to protest severe lockdown measures and plans to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory next year.
The collection of demonstrations, organized and led mainly by the national-conservative Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), saw more than 40,000 protesters—most of whom were peaceful—march through the streets of Vienna shouting slogans like “We are the people” and carrying signs which read: “I will decide for myself,” and “Make Austria Great Again,” Kronen Zeitung reports.
To supervise and contain the protests, Austria’s embattled government—which in the past few months has witnessed three of its highest leaders resign—deployed some 1,200 police officers on Vienna’s central Ringstrasse.
Although the overall atmosphere of demonstrations was quite tense, they remained largely peaceful. A few instances, however, saw minor clashes break out between protesters and police officers. Several arrests were made as a result.
“I am here because I am against forced vaccinations. I am for human rights, and the violation of human rights should be stopped,” one demonstrator told Reuters. “We are protecting our children,” said another.
Residents of Austria who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine from February, when they’ll be made compulsory, will face prison or fines of up to €7,200 every six months, per a draft of the government’s new law.
As The European Conservative previously reported, protests first kicked off late last month, after the government announced its intention to impose mandatory vaccinations on the population. At that time, FPÖ party leader Herbert Kickl, who originally called on Austrians to oppose the planned measure, said: “From today Austria is a dictatorship. Our freedom is close to our hearts.”