Stadtpark – The corona deniers are allowed to stay

You see Austria sliding into a dictatorship. The mask requirement is just as much a sign as the announced vaccination requirement. The corona virus is just a pretext for the government to finally enforce an authoritarian regime.

Austria is not a dictatorship. And not even on the way there. Proof of this is provided by the supposed guardians of democracy themselves. Opponents of the corona measures imposed have been protesting in the city park for almost three weeks. Around 20 tents are on the meadow next to the Andreas Zelinka monument. A poster warns of eugenics. A campfire warms the corona deniers. Despite full intensive care units, thousands of new infections every day, a health system on the verge of collapse, almost 12,000 deaths, a new lockdown, the protest camp is not evacuated. The protesters are allowed to continue to express their displeasure in the heart of the city. Because we live in a democracy. Of course it is not. Not even in a democracy.

The camp was registered as a gathering by Jennifer Klauninger – a well-known conspiracy theorist and figurehead of the local corona denier scene. As such, she enjoys special privileges. Freedom of assembly is a fundamental right. It is guaranteed by Article 12 of the Basic Law and Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In principle, it is therefore right for a group of people in the city park to rebel against the government’s measures to contain the pandemic – no matter how many passers-by, given the catastrophic Corona situation. But the right of assembly also comes up against its limits.

“Of course the basic right can be restricted,” says constitutional lawyer Peter Bussjäger. “For example when a gathering endangers public safety, when laws are broken or when it is directed against the public interest.” The fight against the pandemic represents a high public interest. According to Bussjäger, an interference with the fundamental right could be constitutional. The epidemic law also allows certain assemblies to be restricted. “It would not be the first meeting that is prohibited in Austria.” A resolution of the protest camp in the city park would have to be announced by the competent assembly authority.

No ads despite violations of the mask requirement

In Vienna this is the State Police Directorate (LPD). “Meetings are currently still allowed in lockdown,” said the Wiener Zeitung when asked. “The LPD regularly reviews this meeting, both due to security police aspects and due to the provisions of the Assembly Act.” In principle, the participants in the protest camp do not wear masks. They didn’t have to until Sunday either. The so-called Protective Measures Ordinance provided for a mask requirement for meetings only with a number of participants of 50 or more. “However, the Covid Emergency Measures Ordinance has been in effect since the lockdown began on Monday. And according to it, masks are also mandatory for small gatherings,” says Bussjäger. “A mask must be worn at meetings, unless all persons can present proof of 2G,” says the regulation. According to their own statements, the people in the camp are not vaccinated, but it is not known whether they have already had the disease. So far, nobody has been punished. “There have not yet been any advertisements. So far, we have been relying on de-escalation,” the LPD said. How much longer remains to be seen.

So it would be legally possible to dissolve the camp in the city park. Bussjäger, however, advocates careful handling of the authorities. “From a social point of view, it would be wise to act with a sure instinct and give the protesters an outlet.” After all, Austria is a democracy. Different views are permissible – no matter how absurd they may be.

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