AUSTRIA

Thousands protest against extreme right-wing party’s ball in Vienna

Demonstrators take to the streets to oppose the Austrian state allowing the far-right Freedom Party to hold its annual Academics Ball in the Vienna’s imperial winter palace

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 January, 2014, 3:04pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 January, 2014, 3:04pm

Thousands of people rallied in Vienna on Friday to protest against the staging of an annual ball hosted by an extreme right-wing party in a palace in the heart of the Austrian capital.

State television network ORF estimated 10,000 people took part in the three protest marches. Police put the number at less than 6,000. No crowd violence was reported, only some minor incidents.

The demonstrators were opposed to the Freedom Party (FPOe) holding its ball in the city’s imperial winter palace, the Hofburg, to which far-right figures from across Europe were invited.

Around 20,000 police manned a security perimeter around the building to prevent intruders disrupting the event.

Natascha Strobl, a spokeswoman for the Offensive Against the Right collective, told reporters the demonstration “is about halting the biggest gathering of Europe’s extreme right elite”.

The opposition FPOe is the third-biggest party in Austria, winning 21 per cent of the vote in September elections – rivalling the support shown to each of the two traditional parties, on the centre-left and centre-right, that govern as a coalition.