13 Dec 2017

Preparation for "Day X” anti-government protests in Austria

The opponents of the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition are preparing for the inauguration of the government. But the new law on assemblies does not make civil protest any easier -- quite the opposite.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Preparation
for "Day X” anti-government protests in Austria - NewsMavens
Protests in Austria. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

politics, protests

Originally everything was supposed to look quite different. But now, every morning at eight o'clock, a group arrives at the Memorial for the Victims of Nazi Military Justice in the center of Vienna to commemorate a different resistance fighter who opposed National Socialism. They plan on gathering there until a new government is proclaimed.

In her recent piece, Der Standard editor Maria Sterkl explains why it is becoming increasingly difficult for civil society actors to respond to spontaneous events.

So far, thirty requests for peaceful protests against the new ÖVP-FPÖ coalition had been filed with the police, but the authorities rejected all of them. The government opponents sought a legal detour and found it in the morning vigils on the Ballhausplatz, where the WW II memorial is located.

The fact that the opponents of the government had to resort to this trick in order to execute their right to assembly -- one of the fundamental liberties of any nation -- has to do with the recent tightening in this regard. The National Council decided on it in April and the new regulation has been in force since July 1. According to it, a demonstration cannot be scheduled just one day before but has to be planned 48 hours prior to the event. This is supposed to give the police more preparation time.

“In recent months, for example, the police have frequently forbidden joint rallies whenever different organizations want to join forces and co-organize a protest agains the same issue,” Alexander Pollak of SOS Mitmensch told Der STANDARD.

Difficulties notwithstanding, Austrian activists are determined to protest on the day of the inauguration of the new government. The protesters' main political slogan is based on Kurz's leitmotif "Close the Balkan Route," which refers to the influx of refugees into Austria through Balkan countries. It has been redrafted to "Close the Ballhausplatz route" -- Ballhausplatz being the official residence of the State Chancellor.

Details from the story:

  • On February 4, 2000, a mass demonstration on the Vienna Ballhausplatz was directed against the inauguration of the first coalition of ÖVP and FPÖ. The members of the future government used an underground passage to enter the presidential building. As a result, there were daily, later weekly demonstrations -- each Thursday.
  • Demo on "Day X" -- On the day of the government's inauguration, which the opposition calls the "Day X", a broad protest against the new ÖVP-FPÖ coalition will take place.
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