I was there.
On Saturday afternoon on the 13th of January, according to the organizers around 70,000 people joined the so far biggest protest against the conservative and far-right government in Austria. Organisers called this protest the “New Year Reception”. I was there, too. I participated because I wanted to take a stand against right-wing populism, racism, marginalization, cuts in social services and a government representing the upper class only, leaving out the people who need it most. I cannot grasp how Austria managed to elect and accept a government that is the total opposite of what we all need. People need social security, stability, a balanced work-life and harmony among each other. The conservative ÖVP and the far-right FPÖ are everything but.
We all met at 2pm in the afternoon, it was a rainy day. Once we all gathered, we started walking towards the Heroes’ Square at the presidential residence. The number of people who walked down the main shopping street was unbelievable. It was cramped. From the youngest to the oldest, everyone joined the protest. The underground was full and people wanting to join couldn’t get out of the station because of the sheer number of people blocking the streets. Once we got to the Heroes’ Square and the rally there has already started, the organizers actually told us that there were still people marching down the shopping street – which was the starting point of the march – 3 hours later!
The speakers at the rally were very inspiring, determined and strong people that managed to unite us all and let us gain hope again. At times like these, there is nothing more important than people coming together, taking a stand and not losing hope for better days. It is scary and frustrating to see all these atmospherical and political changes going on around the world lately. Politicians seem greedier for money and power more than ever and people allow them to manipulate, scare and divide them and make them believe people who are different from them, are the cause for every existing problem in the country. Borders matter a lot more than they used to. But why, when we’re all just citizens of the world, no matter where we’re from? Why do we have to let those people make us become hateful and doubtful of one another? Especially Austria should not want history to repeat itself.
(source: John Sobek 2018)
I went to the demonstration because I’m embarrassed, angry, scared and frustrated and I wanted to be one of those ten thousands of people who represented a welcoming, open and European Austria. And to say it bluntly, I joined the protest because I simply cannot sit still and accept that people who have affiliations with racism, marginalization, oppression and Nazism, are the ones governing our country. There is a quote I once came across saying “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we side with the powerful – we don’t remain neutral”. And this is why I was there among the 70,000 people. Because I can’t stay at home, be angry at the government but not take any action. By remaining silent, I side with them. I might not be part of an organization or be someone of great importance, but I think I can speak in the name of all these people and organizations in Austria when I say that we will not back down and there will be many more protests to come.
(source: Plattform für eine menschliche Asylpolitik)