New European Central Bank headquarters sparks mass protest in Frankfurt, Germany

LUIZ BRASIL

REUTERS/Michael Dalder

REUTERS/Michael Dalder

Police arrest hundreds in violent anti-austerity

Over 350 people have been arrested in the aftermath of a clash between anti-austerity demonstrators and police in the German city of Frankfurt.

The protests were in reaction to the opening of a new headquarters for the European Central Bank. The violent clash erupted a few hours before the building’s official opening, with demonstrators throwing stones and setting several police vehicles on fire.

The demonstrations’ left-wing organizers brought sympathetic people from across Germany and the rest of Europe to fight against the European Central Bank’s (ECB) role in the wave of austerity measures that have hit many EU states, the most recent being Greece.

The ECB is charged with managing the Euro and framing many Eurozone policies, who along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Commission, form a troika that sets conditions for bailouts across the EU.

A spokesperson from the “Blockupy” movement has blamed the ECB and similar agencies for pushing many Europeans into poverty through their practice of austerity.

Prior to the demonstrations, police had set up barbed wire fence all around the ECB’s new 185m double-tower building.

While many had hoped for peaceful demonstrations, some protesters began to light bins of tires and garbage on fire early in the day. Firefighters were blocked from reaching many of the fires, while several fire engines had their windows smashed in. Police responded with the use of their water cannon.

Many were injured in the ensuing clash, with dozens of demonstrators suffering injuries inflicted by police batons, water cannons and pepper spray. At least eight officers suffered injuries at the hands of rock throwing demonstrators.

Police spokeswoman Claudia Rogalski called it an “aggressive atmosphere”, tweeting several pictures of police vehicles being attacked and lit on fire.

Meanwhile, activists accused police of utilizing kittling tactics to block in hundreds of protesters on the streets.

As protests raged in the surrounding streets, the ECB’s President, Mario Draghi, gave a speech inaugurating the bank’s new tower.

During his speech, Draghi said that it “may not be a fair charge” to label the bank as the driving force behind the unpopular wave of austerity measures to hit many European states.

“Our action has been aimed precisely at cushioning the shocks suffered by the economy … but from the central bank to the whole euro area, we must listen very carefully to what all our citizens are saying,” said Draghi.

The new building was set to open years earlier, costing an estimated $1.4 billion to construct, and will be home to thousands of bankers.

The “Blockupy” movement has more demonstrations planned in the following weeks.

The movement started in 2012, where its first Frankfurt protests attracted thousands of people. It is primarily a Europe-wide coalition of left-wing parties, unions, and movements who oppose the austerity policies of the ECB, IMF and European commission.

The movement’s rallying cry is “They want capitalism without democracy, we want democracy without capitalism.”

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