Huge crowds of people gathered in Vienna on Saturday after the Austrian government announced they were imposing a nationwide lockdown starting next week and mandatory vaccinations from February.
The opposition Freedom Party, who vowed to combat the new restrictions, was among those who called for the protest.
Demonstrations against covid restrictions also took place in Italy and were expected in Switzerland and Croatia.
Breitbart reports: On Friday night, Dutch police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured in rioting that erupted in downtown Rotterdam around a demonstration against COVID-19 restrictions.
The Austrian lockdown will start early Monday and initially will last for 10 days, and will then be reevaluated. At the most, it will last 20 days. Most stores will close, and cultural events will be canceled. People will be able to leave their homes only for certain specific reasons, including buying groceries, going to the doctor, or exercising.
The Austrian government also said that starting Feb. 1, the country will make vaccinations mandatory.
As the march kicked off on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, thousands of protesters gathered on the massive square. About 1,300 police officers were on duty. They used loudspeakers to tell protesters masks were required, but most didn’t wear them.
Chanting “resistance!” and blowing whistles, protesters began to move slowly down the city’s inner ring road. Many waved Austrian flags and carried signs mocking government leaders like Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg and Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.
Some wore doctor’s scrubs; others donned tinfoil hats. Most of the signs focused on the newly announced vaccine mandate: “My Body, My Choice,” read one. “We’re Standing Up for Our Kids!” said another.
Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl, who announced earlier this week that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and had to stay in isolation at home, made an appearance via video. He denounced what he called “totalitarian” measures from a government “that believes it should think and decide for us.”
Vaccinations in Austria have plateaued at one of the lowest rates in Western Europe and hospitals in heavily hit states have warned that their intensive care units are reaching capacity. Average daily deaths have tripled in recent weeks.
Not quite 66% of Austria’s 8.9 million people are fully vaccinated, according to government figures.
Austrian Chancellor Schallenberg apologized to all vaccinated people on Friday night saying it wasn’t fair they had to suffer under the renewed lockdown restrictions when they had done everything to help contain the virus.
“I’m sorry to take this drastic step,” he said on public broadcaster ORF.