News from Austria via AP today reveals the unfortunate story of an American teacher named Mike Brennan. Apparently Brennan was beaten, after getting off the subway in Vienna by Austrian police who thought he was a drug dealer. The 35 year old gym teacher and former football player is said to still be recovering from injuries he sustained in the unprompted attach, while Austrian officials have yet to apologize for the beating. The most astounding part for this writer, is that once police realized their mistake, they simply left the man lying there hurt.
Brennan, who has worked in Vienna for the last 4 years, said he was attacked by officers who never even identified themselves, who simply left Brennan lying on the ground once they realized their mistake. Brennan is still recovering from his injuries which caused him to miss work for several months. Amnesty International has reported that Austria has a history of nationalistic and/or racial profiling. According to the organization, Austrian officials routinely deny equal treatment to non-citizens and people of color.
A European Problem
A study by the Vienna based EU Fundamental Rights Agency revealed that over 50 percent of minorities and immigrants believe that Austria has a widespread problem with discrimination. This particular survey asked over 20,000 people across the EU about discrimination. It revealed that Gypsies and Africans apparently suffer the most abuse, and that these groups have little confidence in government’s ability to stop discrimination.
As for Brennan, he said officials apologized for the “mix up”, but that they have yet to apologize for the beating he suffered. Brennan’s attorney believes the officers involved should go to jail, but according to reports none of them have even been suspended or otherwise reprimanded. According to Brennan, he is not against Austrian officials or the police, but simply wants to stand up for what is right. This is not the first such news from Austria, which has a poor history of racism. According to one anti-racism organization (ZARA), there were over 700 other such incidents in Austria last year alone.
A Matter of Dignity In Refined Society
This writer is sending this news bit from Germany, where my personal experiences cannot matter-of-factually testify to abuses I have witnessed. However, the undercurrent of stories I hear, opinions of other foreigners here, and a generally “jaded” view by some of Gypsies, Russians and Turkish peoples, would tend to confirm for me some of this. As for the German people, and most of the officials I have personally dealt with, none in the United States has ever been more officious and professional. People here are fairly easy going and “trouble” for lack of a better term, simply does not rear its ugly head all that much. But then, we live in what might be considered a village.
This news actually astounds me. Austria is one of the most wealthy and refined societies in Europe. If people cannot walk down the street with dignity, and feeling like they are safe, in countries here in Europe – it is a shame. These officers, if the stories are true, should be charged just as they would be if the victim were an Austrian national. One might almost expect something like this to happen in some backwater place in the States, where racial intolerance still rears its ugly head from time to time. Perhaps anyone might expect to hear about this from areas where violence and tensions are more prevalent, but in Austria? I am sure life there is not that much different from here, where the lifestyle is so laid back there is a holiday about once a week. For the Viennese officials, bad form and bad International PR.