Movement
in the Burggarten

The so-called Burggarten movement was a protest movement, which lasted from 1979 to spring 1981. For the first time, young people from different social strata assembled on a broad scale in order to fight for a common cause. Their demand to be allowed to sit on the grass in the Burggarten, although it may seem so harmless, would kick off violent conflicts with public authorities, the police and politicians as well as with the generation of their parents and grandparents, a “war generation” upholding strict norms. The conflict over the lawns – the prohibition to step on them was strictly watched over by older inhabitants of the city – became symbolic of an ongoing intergenerational conflict in Vienna.

 

© Austrian National Library, Picture Archive

We call for:
Autonomous cultural and communication centres!
Also at
Phorusplatz!
Free use of public lawns in Vienna!
Notably for the
Burggarten!
Don’t prosecute squatters of the
Burggarten lawns and Phorushalle!
Release all detainees!

DEMONSTRATION
Friday, October 26th, 2 pm
at
Stock-im-Eisen-Platz
near Stephansplatz

 

© Votava
Nina Hagen in the Burggarten, September 16th 1979

 


©
Newspaper article featuring the Burggarten movement, Kurier, September 17th 1979

Riots and Beatings in the Burggarten

Mass rallies, riots, beatings and a concert of Eastern German rock and punk singer Nina Hagen constituted the highlights of the Burggarten demonstration that took place on Sunday afternoon. Hundreds of young people had rushed into the Burggarten to participate in the event announced also at the concert on Saturday in order to make their voices for free use of public lawns in Vienna heard loudly.

The police were overcharged by the sheer masses of people – estimates expect them to have hit the 500 protesters mark. Consequently, it does not come as a surprise that they would not play cop and robbers this time. Instead, the police officers did not hesitate to use punching and truncheons in order to pull into line both, boys and girls, who did not follow their commands. Some of the protesters were even dragged into the police station by their hair.

Punk lady Nina Hagen from Eastern Germany had already announced the protests during her concert on Saturday afternoon the day before. In order to express her solidarity she joined the squatters’ demonstration for free use of public lawns in the Burggarten herself: In the end, the park was purged by bully-police at around 5 pm; despite the nice weather everybody – even Mr. and Mrs. Average in Vienna – were denied access afterwards.

Reaffirming their demands, young protesters would tour Vienna until very late in the evening. This did not go without clashes with the police. Many of the protesters were arrested.

 

© Peter Lachnit  © Peter Lachnit
Flyer informing about the Burggarten movement, “Do you enjoy lying on green grass at times?”

Do you enjoy lying on green grass at times?

We do!

We believe that the scanty green grass areas of this dull big city are not only an eye-pleasure but can also withstand being trampled. Can it really be considered an offence against nature and humanity to lie on the lawn and let your spirits flow?

According to the yellow press and similar thinking public forces of order – either uniformed or in plain clothes – the public park Burggarten in particular has become stage to desolate scenes: In between orgies of sex innocent ducks are being strangled; young children are being traumatised by the sight of long-haired hippies. And on top of that comes the issue of drug trafficking.

Do you receive information from these dark channels, too? Or even more so, do you exclusively derive information from these sources? In fact, in our opinion it is somebody else who is wreaking havoc in the park: Their uniforms are of green colour as well: The police.

By way of example, some hundred policemen (!!!) purged the Burggarten from unwanted hippies yesterday even though none of those hippies had set foot onto the lawn or been provocative in any way. We talked to Burggarten visitors and explained our cause to them – with a measure of success. Yet, it seems that rigorous steps are taken whenever pre-conceived opinions are being challenged. While we were still discussing their reaction with the police, at least 12 fellows were gradually being arrested for playing the guitar, singing, or asking undesired questions, or simply for seeking information about their friends who had been arrested.

Afterwards, most of the detainees had bruises and the like for unknown reasons when they were released. In the end, the Burggarten was completely closed to the public; not even innocent retirees would be admitted into it.

We do not know who is responsible for these tough measures against Burggarten visitors (yet); if you do not trust the mass media blindly, come! See for yourself what has happened!

FRIENDS OF THE BURGGARTEN


 

 

©  ©
Chronology of the Burggarten movement, Arena Stadtzeitung 1981, no. 9

Free the Burggarten!!!
A chronology of the
Burggarten movement

—spring 1979: it all started when pupils, students, apprentices and others illicitly gathered on the lawns of the public park burggarten during the most beautiful season of the year. they were tolerated by the police for a few days, yet, in the end, they were evicted by hundreds of policemen who had been on call after the media – most notably the yellow press paper “Die Krone” – ran a smear campaign against the protesters (their accusations included, among others, “public drug abuse”, “sexual intercourse”, and “duck murder”).

—confrontation with bully-police resulted in people demonstratively occupying the lawn, being expelled by the executive authority and occupying the paved area in front of the palm house instead. This order of events occurred repeatedly and was dragging on for months. The plenary sessions of the “movement” are held in the amerling house.

—september 1979: on its open day numerous activists, who were part of the “movement”, gathered in vienna’s city hall and left graffitis on its sacred walls, provoking false promises by mayor Gratz to meet up, who, on the agreed meeting date with the “movement’s” reps, just happened to be in San Francisco.

—october 20th/21st 1979: an afternoon event at vienna’s concert arena took a surprising turn: an evening think tank (“ideenmarkt”) by the conservative austrian people’s party (ÖVP), was stormed and occupied by activists of the “movement” in a call for the creation of a youth and communication centre. Its location, a flower market hall at phorusplatz in the 4th district, had already been set to be torn down, though. The next day, bully-police expel the protestors from the hall and chase them through the entire district.

—october 26th 1979 (national holiday): in a four hour long demonstration, around 1,500 people have taken to the street in the city centre to express their support for an autonomous youth and communication centre, free use of public lawns in Vienna and protest against police brutality.

—spring 1980: the burggarten is being occupied and, again, violent police interventions follow.

—may 1st 1980: during the march on the first of may, which was organised by the “movement’s” and other left-wing activists, aka Spontis, the burggarten experiences another siege. the police arrest more than 30 people. anger is rising.

—may 3rd 1980: people’s anger burst at the Vienna city festival organised by the ÖVP: After minor damage has been inflicted to the venue’s property such as display windows, festival inventory and flags, members of the people’s party called the police. what followed were hours-long altercations between the police and protesters that left numerous injured and 30 people arrested.

—august/september 1980: two members of the “movement” are arrested for spraying political slogans on the gloriette in the gardens of schönbrunn’s palace and two luxury cars. they will be held in custody for 2 weeks. their trial is still pending.

—then, the “movement” slowly begins to fall apart; in part, probably due to resignation over their constant failure; yet, its members will – for the most part – participate in the large events which take place on march 1st 1981 (also referred to as “scherben-demo” which stands for protest of shattered glass) and on may 1st 1981 (squatting action at windmühlgasse 24); but in the meantime, the spectrum [of actions] has become considerably more diverse. the side-effects of “the movement” start to kick in.

—from november 25th 1980 to december 3rd 1980 in a call for maintaining and implementing autonomous administration in the cultural and communication centre, some halls of the amerling house have been squatted over the course of several days. Not only was the culture and communications centre, established in 1978, too small for vienna’s taste, but it’s also run by a small, close-knit group. the occupation is being cancelled without success and without bringing about any administrative changes.

—march 23rd 1981: since autumn 1979 negotiations between a group representing the “movement” and the city take place revolving around the area between Gassergasse and Gürtel in the 5th district; Throughout the negotiations the group had been slowly falling apart. Yet, finally the city gave its consent, probably as a consequence of the demonstration on march 1st. the cultural and communication centre, which was supposed to be fully autonomous, officially opened on may 1st 1981.

 

 

©
Description of a Burggarten demonstration, Arena Stadtzeitung 1981, no. 9

DESCRIPTION OF A DEMONSTRATION
IN THE
BURGGARTEN ON MARCH 15th 1980

A meeting of the “movement” is being announced (festival of Americans) by spraying paroles on the walls of the university, restaurants & pubs, and other walls as well as by word-of-mouth. In the afternoon, several hundred young people – some of them have still paint on them – gather in front of the palm house. Gradually, they join together to dance in circles on the pavement around the lawn; some step onto the lawn.

Policemen appear, first a dozen of them, then, some five hundred show up. Their arrival is being met with careful, yet still pungent and spiteful remarks. While the state’s minions erect a cordon around the lawn, protesters (even though without banners and organised protest chants) march past the police chain. Finally, police officers are being instructed “from above” to evict these young people from the park, inclusive of the pavement areas, in order to put a halt to a situation that is becoming increasingly embarrassing for the executive authority. Without any notice, the teenagers are being pushed, shovelled and kicked out of the park. Now, the bully-police guard the entrance gates in teams of three and patrol the entire area. In doing so, they are being insulted and mocked, some of them are being drawn into debates; even passers-by get involved and eagerly join the debates. Typical reactions range from “Let them bite the dust” to “Don’t give in to them”.

Suddenly, somebody starts to play the guitar on the pavement in front of the park. Others start to dance. The bobbies, who now have nobody left to guard but themselves, take to their megaphone, urging the protesters to stop their music. Then, a small group of policemen start attacking the guitarist, destroy his guitar and drag the player into the park, where five policemen kick him with their feet even though he does not show any sign of defence.

Protesters, who have been arrested by the police, will be held at the police station for a few hours. In order to force them sign confessions to “public nuisance” and “resistance to police officers” entailing penalties of approx. 1000 Austrian Schilling, the police officers resort to measures such as physical violence, threats and extortion. The offenders, who were subject to abusive and insulting comments, will be released in the early morning hours.


ORGANISATION

They had not joined together as a conventional political association whose establishment is clearly defined by statutes and laws. There were no competences, hierarchies or nominal memberships established, as set out in the Vereinsgesetz (Association Act)

Difficulties arose as a result of heterogeneous interests and ideological inhomogeneousness. The need to create an organisation due to alternative world views on politics and ideology had only been present in a few people, though.

Often, they would assemble to form a solid core of organisation: A group of people bound by their mutual interests with regard to a certain project such as Gasserstraße or squatting at Phorushalle.

As a consequence, the new “youth movements” assemble as an association only on the grounds of a common cause or with regard to specific projects via word-of-mouth, sprayings and graffiti, and propaganda. Their Latin resolutions and distribution of competences took place in plenary sessions (usually held in the Amerling House) on a voluntary basis (by way of contrast, it is common practice in plenary sessions of the Zurich movement to shut up filibusters by putting a lolly in their mouths). The movement did not nominate any representatives to negotiate on behalf of the group. Instead, small member groups would spontaneously form and carry out negotiations with public authorities (eg. district authorities, the city counsellor for culture, or the head of the police). Yet, the binding character of these negotiations remains unclear.

These self-appointed representatives of the movement whose members hardly used any forms of media (what about the city paper ARENA?) would act as the sole point of contact to the city’s administration. As such, they are at risk of becoming the “movement’s” representatives and be held responsible and liable. Also, due to the temporary character of the organisation and its random/poorly structured information flow, they are prone to act single-handedly without the organisation’s consent. By way of example, they might accept promises or offers on behalf of the community without prior consultation. (For instance, this was the case with the squat on May 1st). A tendency towards sub-cultural bureaucracy in alternative settings has already been observed at the annual Vienna Festival. The latter is an example of a small cultural group setting up a cultural programme prior to inviting the general community to get involved in the planning.