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Thousands around Germany demand wealth tax

Thousands of protesters gathered in German cities to demonstrate in favour of a tax on wealth and financial transactions. The demonstrations are part of a nationwide movement against wealth inequality.

Approximately 40,000 people hit the streets in 40 cities nationwide on Saturday to call for a more equal society under the motto "Umfairteilen" - a German pun on the words "unfair" and "to redistribute."

Estimates place the largest demonstration in Hamburg, with 7,000 participants.

Police said 4,000 people took to the streets in Frankfurt, while Cologne reported 2,000 protestors. Authorities in Berlin did not provide an estimate, but organizers say around 5,000 people demonstrated in the capital.

Unions, civil society groups and the anti-globalization group Attac helped to organize the demonstrations, demanding a permanent tax on people's wealth "to have rich households contribute significantly more."

The proposed tax would only affect the wealthiest of German citizens, said the organizers, with nearly 99 percent of the population not paying additional taxes.

"The wealthiest 10 percent of households hold 53 percent of the total wealth," said Uwe Grund, head of Hamburg's Confederation of German Trade Unions. "The lower half, however, has nothing."

Speaking from the banking city of Frankfurt, Frank Bsirske, chairman of the ver.di trade union, said that the wealthiest people have to provide a stronger response to the economic and financial crisis, adding that the taxpayer-funded bailouts protected the wealth of the super rich.

"It is time that those who benefited from them now do their part," said Bsirske.

Green Party Chair Claudia Roth told the dpa press agency that "it cannot be that a small group of wealthy people can accumulate more and more private capital, while swimming pools must close or community hospitals cannot pay their staff salaries."

dr/tm (dpa, AP, AFP)