Around 40 organizations belonging to the anti-banker Blockupy movement have gathered in Frankfurt. Their goal is to keep bankers from their work.
More than 5000 police were stationed around Frankfurt's banking district on Friday. Armed with bullet-proof vests, body armor and special helmets, they stood behind barricades, flanked by row upon row of police cars as police helicopters circled above. They appeared to be ready for combat.
At 6 a.m., activists had planned to bar the entrances to major German banks in the framework of a 'Blockupy' protest. But no one showed up that early. "They're still asleep. Demonstrating before breakfast is no fun," a police officer joked.
Police and security forces were on the ready all night long, waiting tensely, in the hope that none of the activists would push their way through the barricades. The streets around the European Central Bank (ECB), usually madly busy with traffic and people, were eerily quiet.
Just after 7 a.m., a few people scurried along the empty streets, mobile phones in hand, casting questioning glances. Back and forth they went, but then most of them gave up and left. No wonder - the banks had boarded up their entrances.
"Those are all bankers," said Englishman Jack Bailly, who runs a newspaper stand between the Deutsche Bank building and the European Central Bank. Bankers without three-piece suits and dress shoes? "The police told them to wear casual clothes so they wouldn't draw attention to themselves and provoke anybody" Bailly told DW. He'd given up on sales for the day. He gave a Dutch reporter an interview; both men felt the security operation was excessive.
Jack Bailly planned to deliver papers to the ECB before he, too left for home. But even here, there was only emergency staff. Police took over the task of distributing the papers, climbing over the barriers they'd erected. Bank employees, all wearing casual clothes, stood in small groups, watching. Some smiled, others were annoyed. They'd all just been told that they, too, could go home as almost all banks would remain closed.
The calm before the storm?
It was quiet in the banking district. Later that morning, police cars would rush through, sirens screaming, on their way to the Frankfurt trade fair buildings, where a group of about 50 'Blockupy' protesters had gathered.
In less than five minutes, the protesters at the fair grounds were surrounded by police. The activists protested loudly, but remained peaceful. Reporters and cameramen came running, microphones were thrust out. Hasn't the protest failed, now that police have barred access to the financial district? the media asked. "No, absolutely not," a Blockupy supporter replied.
The police have done an excellent job of keeping the bankers away from their jobs, several demonstrators explained gleefully. The surrounding police did not find this funny. Bystanders shook their heads and asked the group of protesters whether they believed their actions would change the thinking of the bank managers or the banking system. "That is obviously a slow process," said one of the protesters. But they said it was important to point out that normal citizens do not accept the excesses of the financial world. The bankers they condemn did not pay any attention to the demonstrations. The additional protests announced for Friday and Saturday will require even more police presence. "Probably nothing will change," said a pharmacist who took the risk of opening her business across from Commerzbank. She was hoping to sell a lot of painkillers. Not for the bankers. Not for the demonstrators. But for the police.
Author: Wolfgang Dick / gb
Editor: Simon Bone