Arrests and charges as thousands join Vienna ‘coronavirus walk’

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dpa/GNA – Several people were arrested and charges were filed in 850 instances after thousands joined an unauthorized protest against coronavirus containment measures in Vienna on Sunday.

At least two police officers were injured after being attacked by protesters, police said in the Austrian capital late Sunday.

Police said the charges filed included violations of coronavirus regulations and resisting state authority.

A well-known organizer of such protests was among those arrested, they added, without identifying them. The man was suspected of having kicked a policeman in the back.

Police estimated that about 5,000 people had gathered in the Austrian capital for what organizers termed a “coronavirus walk” despite a ban on such rallies.

The mood had become increasingly aggressive, observers at the scene reported. Among the participants were well-known right-wing extremists.

Because many participants did not wear masks or did not keep enough distance to avoid coronavirus infections, the police announced on Twitter that the rally was being broken up.

When participants moved towards the country’s national parliament building and did not comply with calls to disperse, police intervened. They initially took personal details and issued tickets, they wrote on Twitter. The arrests followed.

On Friday, the police had rejected requests for several demonstrations planned for Sunday with up to 15,000 participants in Vienna.

Citing previous experience, they said they feared that mandatory hygiene rules would be disregarded.

Among others, the parliamentary group leader of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPOe), Herbert Kickl, wanted to speak.

On Saturday, Kickl had called for prudence on Facebook. At the same time, however, he blamed the interior minister in advance for possible riots. Banning demonstrations, he said, would provoke such consequences.

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