‘It’s Thursday Again’

When on October 4th, 2018 a group of political friends announced a demonstration under the title ‘It’s Thursday again’, nobody would have guessed that this would mark the beginning of an outstanding series of protests against the Austrian right-wing extremist government.

Even though the 20 organisers (among them students, university staff, cultural activists, journalists, and social workers) weren’t members of any party or backed by any kind of organisation, they managed to mobilise 20,000 people. Already at this first demonstration they called for the next one by announcing, ‘On October 11th it’s Thursday again’.

Up to today, 17 Thursday demonstrations have taken place in Vienna, each one focusing on a specific topic. While in the year 2000, when the first series of Thursday demonstrations was launched against the right-wing government at the time, no other major Austrian city held it’s own demonstration, in 2018, eight other Austrian cities started to organise Thursday demonstrations. All of these cities are united by the rejection for  the current Federal Government. Furthermore, these demonstrations seem to act as a gathering point for activists who want to point out social utopias which is also visible at the demonstrations.

The organisers seem to have no difficulties in achieving a speaker ratio of at least 2/3 women and 1/3 migrants on stage. This leaves  political parties, trade unions and other established political players looking rather old-fashioned and outdated.

After only four months of demonstrations it’s still too early to tell how this phenomenon will develop, but the organisers keep mentioning one goal: they do not want to stick to demonstrations alone. When spring and summer come, they are contemplating to organise occupations of public spaces and much more. Even though currently temperatures in Vienna are not rising above zero degrees, around 5,000 people are attending the demonstrations on a regular basis. The organisers assume that in summer even 15,000 or more protesters might participate who will represent a new political force and a new social movement.

The main goal of the demonstrations is to show a wide front of rejection for the current right-wing government. This is why also top-ranking politicians from the Social Democrats (SPÖ) or the Greens show up once in a while and tweet how great they think the Thursday demonstrations (‘do!’) are. At the same time, the attendants are criticising the authoritarian city government of Vienna e.g. the public bans enforced by the SPÖ (eating on the subway, drinking alcohol in specific public spaces) and a motorway construction project crossing a nature reserve.

The professionalism, diversity and tangible passion of the protesters as well as the combination of their aim to educate the public and show activism is striking and suggests that this social movement is here to stay. The upcoming EP elections do not play a role in this. The fact that some parties are trying to address the protesters as voters or candidates is met with widespread serenity. It seems, however, not improbable that a new alliance for future elections will form in Austria in which also activists from the Thursday movement will be  playing a role.