Tens of thousands of protesters have taken part in a massive rally in Austria’s capital Vienna against the maltreatment of asylum seekers and the European Union’s failure in tackling the persisting refugee crisis.
The Monday protest march, which began at the city’s Westbahnhof train station, came amid surging anger in Europe following the discovery of the bodies of 71 refugees in an abandoned truck in Austria last week.
Carrying large banners reading “Refugees welcome” and “I don’t want Europe to be a mass grave,” protesters representing all age groups then marched down a major shopping thoroughfare, AFP reported.
This is while a large part of the capital city had been cordoned off by police forces in anticipation of the protest rally.
According to the report, the protest participants, many dressed in white, then converged in front of the parliament building, where they lit a sea of candles.
In a speech before the demonstrators, protest organizer Nadia Rida accused European government authorities of “political failure” and “inhumane treatment” of refugees.
“See how many we are — we too can move things,” she added during her emotional address.
Meanwhile, a service was held for the victims at a local cathedral, where the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, addressed the congregation, which included senior government authorities, saying, “We’ve had enough — enough of the deaths, the suffering and the persecution.”
He further stated that it was “too awful” to think of the plight of the asylum seekers in the truck, four of whom were children.
The rally and the service took place shortly after trains packed with refugees arrived from Hungary after being halted at the border for several hours.
Protest rallies were also held in Germany and Serbia to highlight the refugee crisis. In the German city of Leipzig, thousands of pro-refugee activists marched against an offshoot of a racist movement known as PEGIDA.