After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the controversial Vienna Academic Ball is back, and it is expected to be accompanied by protests. The ball, which is viewed by critics as an international networking event for right-wing extremists, will take place on Friday in the Vienna Hofburg. The Austrian police are on high alert with around 1,200 officers deployed to manage the expected protests.
The Vienna Hofburg area will be a restricted zone from 5 p.m., and the police will close sections of the Ring road, from Schwarzenbergplatz to Schottentor, to manage traffic flow. Tram traffic in the area will also be affected, but not the subway. However, the subway entrance to Minoritenplatz will be closed at the Herrengasse station due to the ban on space. As a result, traffic obstructions are expected in the inner city, and the police advise drivers to avoid the area.
Ten rallies have been registered around the fraternity ball, with at least one aimed directly at the ball. The “offensive against the right” has called for a protest march through the city center under the motto “Throw fascists out of the Hofburg!” The march will start at 6 p.m. at the Sigmund-Freud-Park at the Schottentor and will lead through Wipplingerstraße, Hoher Markt, and Rotenturmstraße to Morzinplatz. The organizers expect 2,000 to 3,000 participants, and a final rally is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
In the past, the Vienna Academic ball has been accompanied by protests, some of which were violent, resulting in extensive damage to property and a significant number of injured demonstrators and police officers. Ball organizer Udo Guggenbichler has complained about calls for violence in the run-up to the ball and has submitted a statement of facts to the Vienna public prosecutor’s office.
The Vienna Academic Ball has been organized and shaped by German-national fraternities since 1952, with the FPÖ Vienna taking over the organization in 2012 after differences with the Vienna Hofburg. The last event in 2020 saw the controversial guest, Martin Sellner, head of the “Identitarian Movement,” classified by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution as right-wing extremist. The ball has also hosted other controversial guests in the past, such as the French right-wing populist Marine Le Pen in 2012.
The Vienna Academic Ball has caused controversy and drawn criticism for years. The FPÖ will be prominently represented at the ball, with Third National Council President Norbert Hofer, FPÖ General Secretary Christian Hafenecker, and FPÖ Ombudsman Walter Rosenkranz expected to attend. However, party boss Herbert Kickl will not attend as he is on a campaign tour for the Carinthian state elections.