Sunday, June 10, 2007
On Thursday, June 7, the famous Vienna Ringstraße was partially blocked for about an hour as the 100-150 participants of a demonstration organized by the Austrian Pirate Party walked along it to call out against planned data retention legislation in Austria which would implement a European Union (EU) directive.
=== On data retention ===
The EU directive calls for the preservation of all call detail records for at least 6 months by all member states. This would mean that all information about who communicated with whom and when would have to be saved by telecommunication companies, to be available to the authorities in case the data is needed for an investigation. Critics of data retention argue that it is an undue intrusion into the privacy of citizens and a violation of the presumption of innocence. Supporters of data retention highlight the use of data retention in crime-fighting, especially against terrorists and paedophiles.
=== The demonstration ===
The demonstration started at 7:00 p.m. local time in front of the University of Vienna. By then, supporters from a preceding demonstration against the G8 Summit in Germany, from the Austrian Green Party Youth, the Green and Alternative Students (German Wikipedia), the Austrian Communist Party, the Austrian Communist Students (German Wikipedia) and Monochrom, an artist group had gathered to march towards the Ministry for Traffic, Infrastructure and Technology, which is supposed to implement data retention.
A few banners were displayed, reading, for example, "Demokratie braucht Anonymität" ("Democracy Needs Anonymity"). Slogans such as "Euren Überwachungsstaat haben wir zum Kotzen satt" were shouted (freely translated as "We are sick of your surveillance state").
When the crowd reached the Ministry, Florian Hufsky, the speaker of the Austrian Pirate Party and Rickard Falkvinge, the founder and leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, addressed the participants. Hufsky thanked all supporters and stressed the Pirate Parties' stance on data retention: "It is an effort to strip people of their civil liberties." (Video in German) Falkvinge seconded Hufsky, saying "We are taking a stand, and we are not going to let that happen.". He added that European Pirate Parties are "fighting a harsh and powerful enemy. [...] We will not let our liberties be taken away without a fight!" Falkvinge stressed international cooperation and that the participants of the demonstration should "remember that [they] are part of something big".
As Thursday was a holiday in Austria, nobody from the Ministry was available to comment on the issue.
The demonstration officially ended around 8:30 p.m., after which some of the participants remained in front of the Ministry for informal chatting.
=== Effects ===
Some motorists were seemingly angry, as two of the most important inner-city streets were closed for the demonstration - Ringstraße and Franz-Josefs-Kai. A sizeable police force helped to keep the demonstration moving, although the demonstrators stopped a few times along Schwedenplatz, a large square, to address the onlookers.
When asked how he thought the demonstration went, Florian Hufsky said it was a success. When asked by this reporter, most interviewed onlookers said they did not know what data retention means.
== Interviews ==
This reporter recorded three interviews with Florian Hufsky and Rickard Falkvinge. They are available with transcripts in the respective languages:
Interview with Florian Hufsky before the demonstration (in German)
Interview with Florian Hufsky after the demonstration (in German)
Interview with Rickard Falkvinge after the demonstration (in English)
== External links ==