Violence in the city

3 Feb

Something terrible is happening in this city I love. We are not used to violent crime, or really much violence (or crime for that matter), in Vienna, but in the last few weeks there have been reports of a tram driver being knifed in the back, violent demonstrations against a ball organized and attended by the extreme right wing, a dog (a Pekingese so it was clearly not self-defense) being kicked and throttled on the platform of an underground station, my neighbors were broken into and robbed when they were away for four hours only, and this evening coming home from work I saw two men attacking another man at a major underground station.

At first I thought it was just shouting. Then I saw they were pushing, kicking, and hitting him. It looked as if no one was going to intervene when suddenly four women emerged from the crowd and started to run interference to protect the victim, who was not only one against two but was also so drunk he was completely unable to defend himself. These women kept this up long enough and effectively enough, one on the phone to the police, that the attackers gave up and disappeared, at which point someone from the underground oversight appeared and took on responsibility for the drunken, battered man.

The women went their own ways, obviously previously unknown to each other, having simply stepped in spontaneously together in the interest of protecting the weak.

There is a campaign on in Vienna encouraging people to show more “Zivilcourage” (“moral courage” according to These women, and not really anyone else in the crowded concourse, seem to have taken that message to heart.

If things go on as they are, we are all going to need a lot more “Zivilcourage”.


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