A bunch of right-wing fraternities with names like Olympia, Teutonia, Gothia, Silesia, and Aldania marched in downtown Vienna yesterday in something they call the Freedom Festival, which is basically an excuse for silly nationalists to wear silly hats and demonstrate their manpower under the pretence of commemorating the People’s Revolutions of 1848. Among the crowd were people who have been affiliated with the Austrian far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), like Holocaust denier John Gudenus.
Initially, the weirdos had planned their party for May 8, the anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. As a site for the festivities, they hoped to use Vienna’s notorious Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square)—the same square where Hitler gave one of his iconic victory speeches after the Nazis annexed Austria. But the State of Austria, wanting to claim its own symbolic victory over the reactionary forces of yesteryear, decided to hold a commemoration ceremony called the Festival of Joy on the same date and at the very same place, thereby taking over the area that the nationalists had hoped to use. Over 12,000 people attended.
Roughly 200 Austrians took part in yesterday's Freedom Festival, which started with a rally at 5:00 PM and was followed by the actual festival at 9:00. The event consisted of one speech (every other speaker canceled) and a short question and answer session, limited to exactly three questions. Afterward, the protestors walked to a nearby tavern to eat, drink, and celebrate being idiots. According to police reports there were more than 1,000 counter-demonstrators.
Basically nothing much happened at yesterday's Freedom Festival in Vienna, and for that we're grateful.