Thousands of anti-austerity protestors fought with police officers and destroyed cars on Wednesday morning as they marched toward the European Central Bank’s new headquarters building. The protesters are demonstrating against harsh European austerity programs and unfettered capitalism.
The protest was organized by a group called Blockupy and several German workers’ unions, and brought thousands of people into the streets as the ECB inaugurated its new building. Of note, Blockupy is an alliance of a number of political activist groups across Europe. Members include the second-largest German labor union, Ver.di, as well as the Greek political party Syriza.
Details on the anti-austerity protests
The protesters moved around Frankfurt as they were prevented by the police from grouping outside the ECB tower. The demonstration is scheduled to continue this evening, with busloads of new protestors joining later in the day.
Activists have occasionally handed out information in front of the ECB’s headquarters for a couple of years now, but this was the first major organized protest in Frankfurt.
As a group of 400-500 marchers tried to cross a bridge over the Main River and head toward the tower, but they were headed off by a large contingent of armored riot police. Smaller groups of protestors burned cars, furniture, trash and bikes close the bank headquarters.
ECB employees started moving into the new 1.2 billion euro-building a few months ago. In suburban Frankfurt on a large site overlooking the Main River, the 600-foot-high tinted-glass tower has been described as an intimidating symbol of central bank power.
The grand opening ceremony planned for Wednesday was scaled back because of the protests. Some European Central Bank employees were told to work from home on Wednesday, but an ECB spokesman said that the bankwas “fully operational.”
Statement from ECB President Mario Draghi
Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, noted in a speech inaugurating the new HQ that European unity was being strained and that “people are going through very difficult times.”
As an EU institution “that has played a central role throughout the crisis, the ECB. has become a focal point for those frustrated with this situation,” Draghi commented in his speech. “This may not be a fair charge – our action has been aimed precisely at cushioning the shocks suffered by the economy. But as the central bank of the whole euro area, we must listen very carefully to what all our citizens are saying.”