A protest against rising discrimination and racism in Austria drew several thousand people to the streets of Vienna on March 17 despite the snow and freezing temperature.
Many carried placards condemning the government, which since December has been made up of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz‘s conservative People’s Party (OeVP) and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache‘s far right Freedom Party (FPOe), reported the Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Speakers at the rally, organised by left-wing and anti-racist groups, said the government’s policies risked stigmatising foreigners, making them scapegoats for social problems.
“I’m here with you today because, 80 years after the Nazis’ takeover of Austria, I don’t want people to be discriminated against once again because of their origins,” Daniela Gruber-Pruner, MP for the opposition Social Democrats (SPOe), told the crowd.
The government, which has made a crackdown on immigration one of its main priorities, has pledged to speed up and toughen the asylum process and increase deportations.
“There’s the spectre of right-wing extremism today in Europe,” 70-year-old Monika Salzer, founder of the “Omas gegen Rechts” (“Grannies against the Right”) activist group, told AFP.
She added that she was worried Austria could develop into a “guided democracy, in the style of [Hungarian Prime Minister] Viktor Orban”.
Organisers put turnout at the rally at 8,000, with police counting 3,400.