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10,000 people rally against Austrian police in anti-lockdown protest in Vienna

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The demonstration had been outlawed by Austrian police, who feared the spread of further coronavirus cases.
The demonstration had been outlawed by Austrian police, who feared the spread of further coronavirus cases.   -   Copyright  HERBERT NEUBAUER / APA / AFP
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Police in Austria faced off against around 10,000 demonstrators during a banned protest against the country's COVID-19 curfew restrictions.

Vienna police say that "several thousand" people gathered in the inner city area of the capital for a "prohibited" demonstration on Sunday.

The protest had been outlawed by the authorities after several thousand citizens gathered for a similar rally in January, many not wearing face masks and respecting social distance measures.

Several police officers were injured and around 850 people in total were fined for failing to comply with health measures, according to Interior Minister Karl Nehammer.

Demonstrators had been encouraged to rally on the streets by Austria's far-right FPÖ party, which has described the ban on protests as "scandalous".

10 people were arrested when the crowd refused to disperse and wanted to march towards the parliament, blocking traffic and clashing with the authorities.

Among those detained was a "known protagonist of the banned assemblies", who police suspect of kicking an officer in the back.

"After careful consideration of all interests, the Vienna Provincial Police Directorate gave priority to protecting against danger to health and dispersed the assembly according to the principles of the rule of law," police said in a statement.

Despite a third national lockdown, Austria recorded 1,190 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday.

Schools, sports halls, hotels, restaurants, non-essential shops, and cultural venues are closed across the country.

Anti-lockdown demonstrations have also taken place across the Netherlands and Belgium in recent weeks.