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Austrian police investigate far-right storming of refugee play

Police have launched an investigation after several right-wing extremists stormed the stage of a Vienna play featuring asylum-seekers as actors. The group sprayed fake blood on spectators, and several people were hurt.

Vienna police spokesman Thomas Keiblinger said some 30 people, who claimed to be members of the Identitarian movement, were involved in the protest on Thursday evening.

The group took over the stage shortly after the opening of a play, Die Schutzbefohlenen (The Protected). The production, featuring asylum-seekers from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan as actors, was being staged at the University of Vienna.

Between 30 and 40 protesters, mainly men, ran onto the stage in front of some 700 audience members waving flags and unfurled a large banner featuring the words: "Hypocrites: Our resistance to your decadence."

The group also threw fake blood into the audience, as well as flyers bearing the slogan "multiculturalism kills." A scuffle followed between audience members and protesters. The group members were thrown out and subsequently fled from the scene.

Austrian Culture Minister Josef Ostermayer described the incident as "shocking," adding that it was the latest in a series of attacks by the Identitarian group.

"The constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the arts and freedom of speech are as untouchable as the protection of minorities," he said.

Drama protests asylum law

The play, written by Austrian Nobel Prize laureate Elfriede Jelinek, was first staged in Germany in 2014, and is an attack on what the author sees as Europe's inhumane treatment of asylum-seekers. It is about the occupation of a Viennese church by 60 asylum-seekers who were due to be deported.

The Identitarian movement started in France in 2002, deriving from the youth wing of the anti-immigrant Bloc Identitaire.

Austria, which took in 90,000 asylum-seekers last year, has adopted an

increasingly tough immigration stance

to discourage potential migrants. The anti-immigration

Freedom Party has polled above 30 percent

since May last year, posing an electoral threat to the ruling coalition of social democrats and conservatives.

rc/kms (AP, dpa)

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