Anti-austerity protests boiled over near the new headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt on Wednesday, with hundreds of people arrested after an off-shoot from an otherwise peaceful march clashed with police.
Around 10,000 anti-austerity protesters reportedly gathered under the banner of #Blockupy—an alliance united against the so-called 'Troika' of the ECB, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund who oversee bailout packages in the eurozone. The alliance opposes the economic policies behind such packages, saying they harm the poor and middle class.
According to the German news service Deutsche Welle, the Blockupy network "is composed of more than 90 organizations from across Europe—some big, some small—that have united in opposition to what Blockupy calls 'the European crisis regime'."
As Deutsche Welle reported on Tuesday:
Some of the bigger member organizations include the activist groups Attac, founded in 1998 to advocate a financial transaction tax; the German political party 'Die Linke' (The Left), which currently has a little over ten percent of the seats in the national parliament; and even Germany's second biggest union union, Verdi, which has over two million members.
Syriza, the leftist alliance party that won Greece's national election in late January, is also a Blockupy member.
Around 100 high-profile guests, including ECB President Mario Draghi, were expected to attend the opening of the ECB's new headquarters, which cost a reported $1 billion to build.
"We're doing this on the day of the inauguration because there’s nothing to celebrate," said Hannah Eberle, a Blockupy spokeswoman. "There's a crisis in Europe, especially southern Europe, and people are being asked to tighten their belts and we don't accept that."
But BBC reports that "hopes of a peaceful rally were dashed" early Wednesday:
Tyres and rubbish bins were set alight and police responded with water cannon as firefighters complained they were unable to get to the fires to put them out. One fire engine appeared to have had its windscreen broken.
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Activists said many protesters had been hurt by police batons, water cannon and by pepper spray.
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) March 18, 2015
Organizers of Wednesday's rally sought to distance themselves from those perpetrating violence.
"We have two types of actions in today's protests, two sides," Slauke Loewe, a member of Blockupy team, told Sputnik news agency. "On the one hand in today’s protest there are Blockupy actions that are within our plan, thousands of people blocking the European Central Bank because of the austerity policy, on the other hand we have the actions that are not within our action plan. That is not what we were preparing for this day. It has to be clearly said!"
Katja Kipping, leader of Germany's Left Party, which supported the Blockupy actions, stressed that "Most people demonstrated peacefully. Unfortunately not everyone stuck to the consensus for the action. We want that to change."
But the larger goal remains in place, she added: "We also want a different...social policy in Europe."
Follow the #Blockupy actions on Twitter: