Thousands of protesters, many of them affiliated with far-right groups, marched through Vienna on Saturday to demand an end to what they call “The Great Replacement”, a white nationalist conspiracy theory that claims non-European and non-Western immigrants are replacing the native population of Europe.
The rally was organized by the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), the third-largest political party in the country, which has opposed the government’s Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates. The party’s leader, Herbert Kickl, who tested positive for Covid-19 days before the protest, addressed the crowd via video link and accused the government of “vaccine fascism” and “tyranny”.
The protesters also included members of the Identitarian Movement, a pan-European far-right group that advocates for “ethnopluralism” and opposes multiculturalism and Islam. The group’s leader in Austria, Martin Sellner, was among the speakers at the rally. He claimed that “remigration” was the only solution to stop the alleged demographic replacement of Europeans.
The march was met with counter-protests by anti-fascist groups, who denounced the far-right’s racism and xenophobia. Police said they arrested 13 people and reported 62 offenses during the demonstrations.
The concept of “The Great Replacement” was coined by French writer Renaud Camus in 2010 and has since been popularised by far-right activists and politicians across Europe and beyond. The theory has also been linked to several terrorist attacks, such as the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand in 2019 and the El Paso Walmart shooting in the US in the same year.