More than 30,000 people have turned Vienna streets into a “sea of lights” to commemorate Covid victims, show solidarity with healthcare workers, and signal there is a “different Austria” after weeks of anti-mandate rallies.
The #YesWeCare motto was used to organize the event. It began in Vienna on Sunday night with thousands of people lighting candles and shining lanterns, as well as using their cell phones flashlights to remember more than 13,000 victims of Covid since the outbreak. Also, the flash-mob lasted ten minutes and was meant to stand in solidarity with the healthcare workers involved in fighting Covid. Two grassroots activists behind the event, Daniel Landau und Roman Scamoni, are quoted in Austrian media as saying they wanted to “Set an example for others, and together, of good reason” and make visible the attitudes of the “Large majority of the population lives in this country.”
Prior to the rally, the iconic Vienna Ring Road was closed to traffic. Police estimated that there were around 30,000 participants in Vienna on Sunday, and they saw families with their children.
This sea of lights differed from other demonstrations that were held recently in Vienna, Austria. There was very little signage or banners visible, and drumming, which was common at rallies in Vienna, was absent. Some of the participants, however, held traditional gingerbread hearts with the word “vaccinated” inscribed on them. Similar hearts had been spotted at anti-mandate and anti-lockdown rallies earlier, too, except those bore the word “unvaccinated.”
100.000 sind auch „mehr als 30.000“ – Lichtermeer beim Stubentor. Danke Wien, mon Amour! Das hat so gut getan. Auch wenn ich gerne schon am Nachmittag gemeinsam mit meinen Kindern dabei gewesen wäre #YesWeCarepic.twitter.com/rypvdi9O6v
— Julia Tiefengraber (@JuliaTiefengra1) December 19, 2021
Another aspect that made Sunday’s event stand out was the fact that most participants were wearing masks. One of the organizers told the media that he had consulted doctors ahead of the rally and they had “The likelihood of him contracting infection after meeting outside for ten minutes with no masks and everyone in open air, I assured him.”
With a „sea of lights“ tens of thousands #ViennaThe 13.000th anniversary was celebrated by residents #Covid19-victims & sent a powerful message of respect, solidarity & togetherness. It is also a mighty message against far-right & polarization of society. Vienna, you are a proud man!#YesWeCarepic.twitter.com/UsibI2HnUK
— Vedran Dzihic (@vedrandzihic) December 19, 2021
The flash mob ended on Sunday with much applause and no speeches. According to authorities, the rally went without any problems and there have not been reports of arrests.
The organizers insisted the event should not be construed as a “counter-demonstration” in the wake of Saturday’s anti-mandate rally in the Austrian capital and the other similar protests earlier. However, the sea of lights did seek to present a “Different picture of Austria” with Daniel Landau, one of the men behind the flash-mob, saying that he believed the “The vast majority of people are concerned about one another.”
Another key message was that there was an alternative to “Gewalt” – an apparent reference to clashes between anti-mandate activists and police seen over the past few weeks. Sunday’s flash-mob had been backed by more than 40 organizations, including unions and religious groups.
As an apparent sign of support, Austria’s president, Alexander van der Bellen, shared a photo of a candle lit in a window of his residence on twitter. On top of that, Vienna’s public transport operator ran “Yes, we do care” messages on tram display boards.
Similar flash-mobs were held in many other Austrian cities on Sunday with hundreds of participants.