A short introduction into what the heck happened in Vienna last night.
A surreal event captures Vienna every year, in the height of the disregardable Ball season, itself to me a weird tradition of nostalgia for things best forgotten, I think it says a lot about the country I live in that before a regular pride parade (the Regenbogenparade) had been organized, a pride Ball event (Life Ball) had established itself. So far so unimportant, different cultures have different traditions.
For quite some time people protested one of the biggest of those (in all facets of the word) exclusive events, the Opernball, which has now not much of it’s former esteem left, thanks to being a televised society event. It was opened to the masses, whoever could afford a ticket, and such it became Kitsch. Good riddance. But, as in the last years, the event that seemed to captivate most journalists and protesters, was the Ball of the nationalist fraternities.
Fraternities are something different in Austria, since they come from a tradition of Anti-Napoleonism, and are thus not only academic sexist (only men can join) alumni organisations, but also political far right networking melting pots.
Many if not most Austrian fraternities, while still mostly very conservative, have shed those nationalist traditions, the dueling, the reverence of Austro-Fascism, but for those who felt like they lost the Second World War some were havens of like minds.
So, as every other organization (even the LGBT community), the far right, nationalist, sexist, homophobic, racist, pan-german, holocaust-denying, Fraternity community has a Ball of their own as well, the so called Ball des Wiener Korporationsrings, or WKR-Ball (Ball of the Vienna Fraternity League).
Rather: had. A couple of years it was decided that this event was, due to it controversial organizer, not fit to be hosted in the Hofburg, the former imperial residence and still one of the most central buildings of Vienna’s first district. As soon as that decision had been announced, the right-wing FPÖ offered to chip in by hosting a new “academic’s ball”, the Akademikerball, inviting the very same people that had been guests at the no longer existing WKR-Ball to the same address at the same date. This move saved the future of the WKR-Ball and gives you an idea of the close ties kept between the right-wing party and the NGO fraternity community. It was said that the Akademikerball, just as it’s predecessor, offered only the pretense for exchange in all nationalist and fascist affairs.
Just as the far right had their right to organise the event, others felt they had a right to show their disdain.
So, last year all of this escalated a bit. Among the left-wing and socialist protesters, a couple of anarchist groups found their way into the city center and wrecked havok against the police force which they felt was protecting the far-right’s right to assemble a bit to vividly. A mock trial convicted, against evidence, which is not necessary for some obscure allegations that surpass post-9/11 law giving by insanity and unsubstantiality, one German protester as the mafia mastermind behind the destruction. During the night, the police seemed mostly unable to cope with the masses and disorganized. Police officers that went undercover used their private cell phones to record activities they deemed illegal, and manipulated or deleted this possible evidence before handing in their mobile devices. You know, the city wasn’t ablaze, but the CBD was as close to that as it usually gets in Europes 19th richest city.
All of this led to the eyes of many to watch last night’s event hawkly.
But apart from people being very aware, little happened. The police was very well prepared, and from what the twittersphere and media reported, much more professional and forthcoming last year. Still, six police officers and four protesters were injured. Protesters attacked taxis (including the deflation of tires) when they thought Ball attendees were inside. Some people were just in it to put up a fight. With those, the police apparently dealt professionally, without general suspicion against all peaceful participants. That’s progress.
Continued in Part 2.