Disposal of worried burgers

While france’s left is finally waking up, the right-wing conservative coalition in austria is considering banning demonstrations

The alpine republic is heading for a situation of social polarization similar to the days after the right-wing conservative government took office more than two years ago. Signs of silent protest are suppressed, some libertarians and conservatives demand demofree zones. Government critics already announced hunger strikes. Escalation is no longer out of the question.

Vienna’s heldenplatz is a symbolic place. Adolf hitler held his speech here on the annexation of austria. After 1945, there have always been political rallies on this square. Against the "foreigner referendum" of the right-wing populist fpo, 250,000 people gathered here in 1993.000 people gathered for a "sea of lights" of tolerance. When the right-wing conservative coalition of the fpo (second strongest parliamentary group) and the ovp (third strongest party at the time) came to power in february 2000, there was an even bigger crowd.

Government critics erected the embassy of concerned citizens in the immediate vicinity as a sign of silent protest. Every thursday the "vienna walking days" start here. These are demonstrations critical of the government, which are organized via sms and have been more or less popular for the past two years. When on 13. April, right-wing radicals took to heldenplatz to protest against the so-called "wehrmacht exhibition" it came to the eclat. "Sieg heil!"-resentful neo-nazis made a pilgrimage through a busy viennese shopping street unchallenged by the police. Conclusion: numerous injured police and counter-demonstrators, neo-nazis as laughing third parties, finally an unprecedented agitation of the government parties against the opposition.

Fpo- as well as ovp-politicians demanded a general ban of demonstrations on the heldenplatz. The opposition parties amed that this would allow them to get rid of inconvenient government critics without much fuss. In fact, only a few days later the "embassy of concerned citizens" (bbb) was simply demolished in a night and fog operation by order of the castle authorities.

A representative of the authorities stressed that there were no political connections. It only took over two years to find a legal basis to remove the bbb. Now a notary gave the hint that the embassy has no owner and therefore as "ownerless junk" and therefore could be disposed of (pictures).

A provincial pose, one could think. But both the gesture itself and the timing of this action contain considerable political explosives. For the bbb has become a symbol of civil society in austria, not of an isolated "of isolated leftist chaos", as the fpo and the ovp like to claim. The disposal of the embassy just a few days before the right-wing rally announced for the anniversary of the surrender of the german wehrmacht on may 8. May, shows little sensitivity. Right-wing fraternity members want to appear there, an austrian imprisoned for re-enactment has applied for and received leave of absence for may 8. May and also received it. And at this time of all times, attempts are being made to oust people critical of the government from the public space with a provocative act?

Meanwhile, some concerned citizens put up a makeshift embassy, which was hastily disposed of again by a private security firm – under police protection. In protest, some government critics have announced a hunger strike.

In this heated atmosphere, the grunens have so far reacted most sensibly. Party leader van der bellen clarified: "in a democracy, both left-wing and right-wing groups must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate. Only neo-nazi demonstrations are decidedly forbidden". In doing so, he did not fall for the fpo and parts of the ovp, who have been trying to scratch the basic right of freedom of demonstration again and again since february 2000. Sometimes it is "the left-wing perpetrators of violence", sometimes the costs "caused by demos" , which are supposed to legitimize a restriction of the freedom of demonstration.

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