An attack on the Rainbow Parade this month in the Austrian capital Vienna, which was allegedly planned by three young men, was foiled. Hundreds of thousands of participants and onlookers had gathered there. The local politicians are concerned.
It was colorful, it was shrill and it was peaceful – the sign that was set in Vienna, the sign for diversity and tolerance, which emanated from the 27th Rainbow Parade. According to the organizers, 300,000 people took part. But the peace could have ended abruptly.
Three young men were arrested on the morning of the parade by the police’s Sonderkommando Cobra. Weapons were confiscated during a house search on behalf of the St. Pölten public prosecutor’s office. Including gas guns, knives, a sabre, an ax and throwing stars. Investigators had also received evidence of arms purchases abroad. Cell phones were also confiscated.
As the head of the Directorate for State Security and Intelligence (DSN) explained at a press conference, one of those arrested, a 17-year-old youth, had previously appeared on the radar of the state security authorities. A terrorism criminal case was pending but dropped. The head of the domestic intelligence service noted that “there was never a specific danger.” A 14-year-old is still in custody. A third person has since been released.
According to the DSN, the three suspects may have become radicalized on the Internet. This is quite common in Islamist circles. Salafist videos, such as the speeches of so-called hate preachers, are shared again and again. Recently, a number of young members of the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) who had come together via the Internet and social networks have been convicted in Vienna and Lower Austria. In this context, the head of the DSN renewed his call for more police powers. “It was not legally possible for us to monitor the communication.”
According to the findings of the investigation, there was also nothing to indicate that the three young men had other accomplices. According to the DSN, the organizers of the rainbow parade were only informed on Sunday morning. On the one hand, not to jeopardize the investigation if word gets around in advance. On the other hand, to prevent the risk of “fear and terror breaking out” at the parade. Because this is exactly what should be avoided. In addition, as is well known, terrorists want to make people feel insecure, and no one wanted to encourage that.
The thwarting of the alleged act of terrorism has provoked a number of reactions and addresses of solidarity. The Mayor of Vienna Michael Ludwig (SPÖ) was concerned. “There must be no place for hatred and exclusion in Vienna! Our city is colorful and cosmopolitan.” He also thanked the security forces.
“This investigation success shows once again that one must never give in in the fight against radicals and extremists,” said Chancellor Karl Nehammer (ÖVP). “They are threats to our democracy and security, which must be counteracted with all severity.” Extremism – whether from the left, right or with an Islamist background – has no place in society.
“The Directorate for State Security and Intelligence has once again demonstrated that it consistently and efficiently fights every form of extremism,” said Interior Minister Gerhard Karner (ÖVP). “I would like to thank all the investigators involved for their professional work and commitment. For this sensitive and difficult task, however, this authority also needs other modern and therefore up-to-date legal framework conditions,” he commented on the investigations.
Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, Green spokeswoman for LGBTIQ and human rights, sees many unanswered questions. She called for “full transparency so that you can get a clear picture of how likely such an attack was or whether it remains a guess”. The LGBTIQ community not only deserves protection, but also respect: “Instead of fear, the community now needs full clarification.” Red equality spokesman Mario Lindner also called for full clarification, who announced parliamentary questions in the coming weeks.
“We will not let the enemies of LGBTIQ rights, democracy and an open society get us down,” said the organizing team of the parade. The rights of the community have “recently been increasingly threatened by regression and we have to fight for our visibility and security every day,” said Ann-Sophie Otte, chairwoman of the Homosexual Initiative (HOSI) Vienna. The rainbow parade with over 300,000 participants was “this loud and visible signal” that “we stand together here”.
“The Viennese SPÖ looked the other way for decades and gave up integration. Diversity and a colorful Vienna were used as an excuse,” criticized ÖVP city party leader Karl Mahrer. Ethnic communities would isolate themselves, which would open the door to extremists. The liberal Neos LGBTIQ spokesman Yannick Shetty demanded: “We mustn’t leave a millimeter of space for radicalization and terror.” One should “not be blind in any eye”. The danger of Islamist-motivated attacks on the community has been increasing for years. Vienna’s Deputy Mayor Christoph Wiederkehr (Neos) also thanked the police and all the emergency services who ensured a safe rainbow parade yesterday.
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