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Blockupy protests draw 20,000

May 19, 2012

A rally by more than 20,000 critics of Europe's banking sector and eurozone austerities has passed off peacefully in Frankfurt, Europe's biggest financial hub, after fours days of strict crowd control by police.

A mass of demonstrators in Frankfurt's inner city
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Organizers of "Blockupy", a movement reminiscent of "Occupy Wall Street" in 2011, said their Frankfurt rally had demonstrated resistance against the "Europe-wide austerity dictate" of institutions such as the European Central Bank (ECB) and the EU.

Police squads totaling some 5,000 had removed a protest camp outside the ECB on Wednesday and temporarily detained some 400 sit-in demonstrators on Friday, prompting protesters to complain loudly that their basic rights had been curtailed.

Frankfurt city authorities had shut down adjacent commuter train stations, obtained court rulings to prohibit access to the ECB and numerous other events planned by "Blockupy" protesters, bringing the central city almost to a standstill.

Protesters at sit-down event, with police officers and ECB tower in background
Police cleared sit-down protesters on FridayImage: dapd

Major interruptions in central Frankfurt

Protesters were left on Saturday to hold their closing rally in central Frankfurt but only within sight of the ECB. However, a spokesman for "Blockupy," Roland Seuss, claimed it had been "enormously successful."

"Despite continuous defamation directed at our protest and the prohibition orgy of the city of Frankfurt, we have been able to bring European resistance against unsocial and undemocratic policies of cutbacks to the main financial location Frankfurt," Suess said.

A police spokesman said aside from a few stones thrown and some shoving, the rally had passed off peacefully.

EU, ECB and IMF focus of criticism

"Blockupy," an alliance of 40 organizations, including globalization critical groups such as Attac, leftist trade unionists and Germany's Left Party, had accused the EU and its commission, the International Monetary Fund and the ECB of imposing bailout deals that inflicted unjust cutbacks on the citizens of nations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal.

Protestor wearing pick sticker on forehead that reads Solidaires
French protesters joined the Frankfurt rallyImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"We need a rescue mechanism for the people, not for the banks," Seuss said. "This policy of European impoverishment is not taking place in our name."

Banners carried by protesters read: "Break the banks' power," "International resistance against the austerity imposed by troika and governments," and "Euro-land is burnt out." Protestors chanted "A-Anti-Anticapitalista."

The chairman of Germany's Left Party, Klaus Ernst said a change of direction was needed in Europe's economic and financial policies. "We need democratic control of the banks and regulation of the financial markets," Ernst said. He also said he would seek parlamentary inquiries into the past week's tight prohibitions on planned Blockupy protests.

Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has largely escaped rash austerity measures, with the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel urging other EU nations to stick with spending cuts to get budgetary deficits under control.

Her conservative government has also so far dismissed calls by the new French President Francois Hollande to soften social hardship by fostering growth.

On Friday, commercial banks said their high rises in central Frankfurt alongside the ECB had operated uninterrupted but many had advised staff to dress down instead of wearing suits.

ipj/ng (dpa, AP, Reuters, AFP)