'I want my freedom': Austrians protest new lockdown

Thousands of people, many of them far-right supporters, protested in Austria's capital Vienna on Saturday (November 20).

A day after the country's government announced strict new coronavirus restrictions -- another lockdown, and compulsory vaccination next year.

Noisy crowds, cheering, whistling and banging drums, streamed into Heroes' Square in central Vienna.

Many protesters waved flags and carried signs with slogans such as "no to vaccination" and "enough is enough".

"I want my freedom back," says this woman. "One would think we live in a democracy but now, this is a coronavirus dictatorship."

Roughly 66% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

Daily infections are still setting records there, even after a lockdown was imposed on the unvaccinated this week.

That led the government to announce on Friday that Austria would go back into lockdown on Monday - vaccines will be compulsory as of February 1.

"We are against the lockdown and the Austrian government policies as far as the coronavirus goes. This has been going on for two years and there is no end in sight. Something new is announced every day and we don't know what we can believe anymore. That's the situation."

Many Austrians are skeptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party (FPO), the third-biggest in parliament.

The FPO had already been planning a show of force in Vienna on Saturday when Friday's announcement fired up its base.

Although party leader Herbert Kickl could not attend because he has caught COVID-19, thousands answered calls by the FPO and other vaccine-critical groups to protest across the city.

Most protesters who spoke to the media, including the ones in this report, declined to give their names, though the mood was festive.

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