Austria’s first openly gay politician, Greens Member of the European Parliament Ulrike Lunacek, became the target of a toxic acid attack while giving an interview on the sidelines of the nation’s annual Rainbow Parade celebrating LGBT Austrians.
According to Austria’s The Local, Lunacek was being interviewed when an assailant sprayed butyric acid at her, destroying her clothes but otherwise leaving Lunacek unscathed. The acid also hit much of the television station’s equipment and, according to law enforcement sources, destroyed $67,714.50 (50,000 Euros) in electronic recording equipment.
In addition to the violence of the attack, Lunacek stated immediately after the attack that it was completely unprecedented. “Never before has there been an attack at the Rainbow Parade,” she asserted during statements at Vienna’s City Hall. Lunacek said she was “irritated” after the attack because the event had happened in Vienna, a city where, she noted, the Rainbow Parade had always been “a joyful celebration for 19 years.”
Austria’s commitment to LGBT rights became an international affair this May when the nation sent Conchita Wurst, a bearded drag performer, to the Eurovision Song Contest. Wurst won the Eurovision trophy, prompting various members of Russia’s government under Vladimir Putin to protest. Russian officials were reported to be mulling a new, “straight” version of the Eurovision contest in protest.
The ceremony usually attracts some peaceful protests – this year, a coalition of about 50 Christian conservatives held a counter-demonstration to the Rainbow Parade on the same day – but those protesters were not believed to have caused disturbances, nor is the suspect in the Lunacek attack believed to have belonged to that group.
Perhaps most concerning, the suspect has not been found. Law enforcement officials have noted that the suspect is a man believed to have been wearing a white polo shirt. He is described as having “dark hair and a solid build.” The Vienna Times adds that, because there is no evidence and the suspect has not been caught, it is not entirely clear whether the attack was based on homophobia, though given the context of Lunacek’s presence at a pride parade, many suspect this to be the case.