More than 10,000 anti-capitalist protesters gathered outside the bank’s 185-metre new tower in Frankfurt, that reportedly cost around 1.3-billion-euro ($1.4-billion) to build. The protesters arrived to support some of the European countries, such as Greece, who have been severely affected by austerity measures imposed by the European Central Bank.
A police spokeswoman claimed the protesters were “aggressive and violent,” and as they were closing in on the new ECB headquarters in the east of the city, the police had to use water cannons to disperse the crowd. “We’ve had stone throwing, burning rubbish bins and seven police cars were damaged, many set on fire,” spokeswoman Claudia Rogalski said.
Frankfurt police, who assigned hundreds of officers to erect a security zone around the ECB skyscraper, said they expected most participants to be peaceful, but that violent activists might use the large crowd as cover for their radical agenda. Recent news reports claim at least two police officers have been injured in the protests and seven police cars have been set alight.
The protest groups included “regulars” such as Attac, but also members of the Left Party and unions form Germany. A special train has been chartered by protest organizers to bring people to Frankfurt from Berlin and over 60 buses brought people from other parts of the country. Many of the participants even came from abroad to join the demonstrations.
The organizers styled themselves “Blockupy”, after the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, and aimed their anger at the austerity measures imposed by the three financial institutions overseeing Europe’s economic recovery, one of which is the ECB. Ulrich Wilken, one of the people in charge with organizing the event, told reporters that he wanted “a loud but peaceful protest.”
“Our protest is against the ECB, as a member of the troika, that, despite the fact that it is not democratically elected, hinders the work of the Greek government. We want the austerity politics to end,” Wilken explained their objectives.
The “troika” refers to the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, the supranational financial institutions in charge with monitoring the development of countries that have received bailouts to prevent their economic collapse, such as Greece and Cyprus. Austerity measures critics received a morale boost after the January elections in Greece, when a left party coalition came into power blasting the conditions of the deal their country got.
Similar demonstrations are known to leave serious damage behind. In 2012, property worth one million euros was destroyed in another protest in Frankfurt that left one policeman injured.
ECB officials expected demonstrations to take place and the inauguration of its new building, so they tried to keep the festivities pretty discreet. The bank’s president Mario Draghi will entertain around 100 guests, of which only 20 come from outside the institution. Draghi was actually won of the few leaders who encouraged the increase of government spending for those countries who can afford it, so far to little effect.
Image Source: Reuters
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