May 31, 2013
More than 3,000 anti-austerity protesters surrounded the European Central Bank in Frankfurt on Friday, saying that "normal operations" of the powerful bank would not be allowed and that the ECB should be held responsible for the pain and suffering its policies have caused across Europe in recent years.
Friday's protest is part of a two-day series of actions planned to call out the damaging aspects of neoliberal capitalism that has blanketed the country with regressive and destructive austerity policies.
The campaigners barricaded the banking institution's entrances in attempts to keep employees from entering while chanting slogans and holding signs reading "humanity before profit."
"The blockade is standing. The business of the ECB is successfully disrupted," said Blockupy spokerperson Ani Diesselmann. "The Blockupy coalition has reached its first goal. We call up everyone to join our protests."
The police presence was also massive, Al-Jazeerareports, with officers in riot gear, helicopters overhead, and water canon trucks on standby.
"Our main goal is to show that the regime that is governing Europe through this crisis is neither democratically-legitimate nor acting in any responsible way for the people. It's really working for profit. One of it's symbolic places is the ECB - the place that has economic and financial reign over Europe," explained Diesselmann.
"The move from public protest to civil disobedience is necessary," said Blockupy spokesperson Roland Suss. " With the blockade of the ECB we are making the European resistance against the devastating poverty policy visible. It's an expression of our solidarity with the people in southern Europe whose existence is threatened by the austerity programs."
Many of Frankfurt's banks have urged staff to take Friday as a holiday, following a state holiday on Thursday.
Spokesman Martin Sommer said Frankfurt's financial district could be occupied by as many as 20,000 who believe the Troika - the ECB, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund - is imposing an "austerity dictate" on financially troubled countries they have bailed out.
Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, have received bailout loans and Spain has received loans for its banks.
Blockupy spokeswoman Frauke Distelrath said the protest was not aimed at bank employees, but at its role "as an important participant in the policies that are impoverishing people in Europe, in the cutbacks that are costing people their ability to make a living."
The blockade of the ECB was only the first target in a series by the activists on Friday. Later in the day the activists plan to bring their voices of protest to the world headquarters of Deutsche Bank and later to the city's airport.
"As the crisis has many different faces, we are going to make them visible through the different actions taking place within the urban area," the group said in a statement.
As Al-Jazeera's Nick Spicer reports, Deutsche Bank is being targeted for what the protesters "see as land grabs in Asia, as well as [speculation] in food prices."
"They will also be going to one of Frankfurt's most important airports," reports Spicer, "to demonstrate their displeasure about the forced repatriation of refugees and racism as they see it."
From EuroNews, this video:
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