Austria’s leftists called for weekly protests against the country’s archconservative anti-immigrant government.
Last week, “Resistance!” was the bellowing cry from 20,000 people gathered in Vienna’s Ballhausplatz square in front of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz‘s office. And this week, even more are set to do it again.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, after nearly a year of archconservative rule by Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), the left has revived the so-called “Thursday demonstrations” of the early 2000s. Then, as now, the weekly rallies were meant to show opposition to an ÖVP-FPÖ coalition government and, in particular, to what activists see as the FPÖ’s long history of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and now Islamophobia.
What makes Austria unique among many Western nations facing a rising tide offar-right and right-wing populism, however, is the enthusiasm with which young people are embracing it.
“Right now we have 11,000 active members and countless more are interested,” the office of FPÖ’s youth wing told DW. “The numbers are increasing every year, and last year’s election had a very positive impact on that.”
“He [Kurz] really cares about putting Austria front and centre,” Daniel, a 24-year-old business student in Vienna told DW. “He doesn’t just do whatever Brussels demands. And because of that, he has the ear of everyone in Europe, east and west.”
“I do wish he hadn’t entered into a coalition with the FPÖ,” added 26-year-old Maria, while showing off her collection of “Sebastian” pictures taken each time she’s seen him around Vienna. “But I like his style. He’s not condescending or arrogant, like other young leaders such as Emmanuel Macron.”