Activists unveiled Michael Ludwig's bust, Source: LobauBlebit

Climate activists unveil a concrete memorial for Vienna’s mayor

Climate activists unveil a concrete memorial for Vienna’s mayor

The sculpture aims to criticise the local administration for their aggressive mishandling of the Lobau autobahn situation

Today, a coalition of climate activists presented a 1.5-metre concrete bust of Vienna’s mayor, Michael Ludwig in front of city hall. The sculpture is intended as a criticism of Mayor Ludwig’s alleged climate misconduct and is aptly named “Michael Ludwig Memorial, Vienna’s concrete politician”.

The activist coalition between Greenpeace Austria, Fridays for Future and LobauBleibt also published 10 examples of government misconduct. They mainly centre around the controversial project for a highway, called the Lobauautobahn, connecting developments in Donaustadt with the rest of the city.

Around five months ago, activists built a protest encampment blocking the construction of the highway. According to the activists, the local government employed some controversial tactics to sway the protesters, including lawsuits and police intimidation, later denounced by Amnesty International.

The protest camp was cleared on 1 February with tear gas and a police show of force, which led to the arrest of around 50 climate activists.

Criticism of the highway

The activists’ main criticism centres around the fact that the Lobau highway would cut through residential areas and green spaces, while increasing vehicle capacity that would, in turn, lead to climate target backsliding.

As detailed in a statement by LobauBleibit the four-lane city highway will offer more than 300,000 square meters of ground sealing with no space for climate-friendly mobility, such as bicycle lanes or pedestrian areas.

Yesterday, during a press conference calling for authorities to rethink the project, Barbara Laa, a traffic scientist at Vienna University of Technology, explained that the Lobau highway was simply oversized. Furthermore, an expansion of public transportation could yield similar results in terms of traffic capacity.

The city threatens minors with lawsuits

Back in mid-December, city authorities sent around 50 letters to the activists, threatening legal action. Some of the recipients were minors, others were scientists or artists, who had not even been at the Lobau protest camp, but were supportive of the movement.

Lena Schilling, the 20-year-old founder of the youth group that started the Lobau occupation, commented on the incident for the Austrian Press agency (APA), saying that the mayor is resorting to threatening children to push through an outdated road project.

Annemarie Schlack, Managing Director of Amnesty International Austria, said back in December, that the letters of intimidation were a massive violation of freedom of speech. They have been characterised as SLAPPs - Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.

SLAPP lawsuits are a threatening tactic usually employed by governments and companies to blunt civil action with intimidation. Essentially, an entity with a lot of resources threatens to sue knowing that they would likely lose in court. The plaintiff's goals here, instead, are that the defendants succumb to fear and discontinue their activities.

Annemarie Schlach was quoted by the APA, saying: “Such lawsuits are intended to create an increasingly hostile environment for critical voices in society due to their deterrent effect. Silencing people who report or speak out on important issues of public interest affects public discourse. This also curtails people’s right to access information and citizen participation.”



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