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Liveblog: Blockupy anti-ECB demo in Frankfurt

AFP/DPA/The Local · 18 Mar 2015, 18:05

Published: 18 Mar 2015 10:32 GMT+01:00
Updated: 18 Mar 2015 18:05 GMT+01:00

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Key points:

-Violence broke out at the start of a demonstration against the inauguration of the new ECB building this morning. Representatives from demonstration organizers Blockupy tried to distance themselves from a violence at a press conference.

-Demonstrators are now marching peacefully under heavy police guard from the city hall (Römer) to Opera Square (Opernplatz).

-Police say they have charged 16 people with disturbing the peace or arson. 14 officers and 21 demonstrators have been hurt.

-Local schools have been closed, trams and the U5 train line are not running and Deutsche Post is not delivering mail.

-ECB president Mario Draghi insisted in his speech inaugurating the building that the ECB is part of the solution to the crisis, not a cause of the problem.

6:44 pm - demonstration leader Ulrich Wilke has officially announced the end of the march:

6:35 pm - images from the conclusion of the march at Opernplatz (Opera Square):

6:28 pm - stones being thrown at police towards the end of the march route:

6:14 pm - Even as the police begin tweeting public transport directions for demonstrators, some are still letting off flares:

6:08 pm - an Italian participant documents the variety of demands being made by different marchers:

6:05 pm - police report that the number at the march has grown to 17,000. Some at the rear are setting off flares.

5:40 pm - a heavy police presence accompanying the march:

5:02 pm - demonstrators will now march through central Frankfurt to the Opera square (Opernplatz):

4:52 pm - Anti-globalization activist and author Naomi Klein tells the ECB "You aren't burning cars, you're burning away the planet."

4:36pm - "Anyone who abusively invokes civil rights must count on the full strength of the law," Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said of the violent outbursts this morning.

"The extent of the violence suggests that such actions had been planned for a long time," he added.

4:06 pm - Linke (Left) party deputy leader Sahra Wageknecht is addressing the crowd at Frankfurt town hall.

She says that the protesters want a different Europe, accuses the German government of lying to the people (inverting Finance Minister Wolgang Schäuble's accusation that the Greek government lied to its people) and says Germany should be ashamed of rejecting Greek calls for Second World War reparations.

She also manages to get in a dig at the proposed TTIP free-trade agreement between the EU and USA.

3:44 pm - police now say there are 10,000 people at the city hall gathering:

3:31 pm - Germany's Green party has come out in support of the Blockupy protesters, while condemning the violence that took place this morning.

"Protest against the policy of austerity in Europe is more than justified," party finance spokesman and MP Dr. Gerhard Schick wrote in a statement.

But he added that such protest "must leave no room for violence."

"The crisis policies until now have failed... the ECB should take this criticism to heart," he said.

But the ECB was only part of the problem - in fact, "A much greater problem is exactly the fact that the fight against the crisis is taking place almost exclusively at the ECB" rather than through a change of economic policy and increased investment.

"The protest should be in front of the Chancellor's office in Berlin rather than in front of the ECB in Frankfurt," he said.

"European governments are responsible for the forming and the stabilization of the European economy - and they've failed."

3:27 pm - Frankfurt police now reporting a fresh attack against firefighters:

3:16 pm - Frankfurt police released fresh figures about injuries and arrests:

-14 police have been injured and 80 are back on duty after inhaling an irritant gas

-16 people were arrested by 2:30 pm, mostly on charges of disturbing the peace and arson after the police cars were set on fire.

3:02 pm - police say there are around 8,500 people gathered at the Römer city hall in Frankfurt. Left-wing activist and writer Naomi Klein will speak at 4 pm.

2:39 pm - Hessischer Rundfunk now reporting that Deutsche Bank and Deka-Bank are sending non-essential workers to work from home this afternoon.

2:35 pm - Firefighters say that since 5:50 am they've been called out 47 times to extinguish burning barricades, vehicles, police patrol cars and rubbish containers.

They added that two firefighters were hurt by tear gas but were able to return to work after being treated by medics on the scene. One fire engine and one command vehicle had their windows smashed.

2:22 pm - demonstrators from the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB) have gathered at the Frankfurt City Hall (Römer) and are filling the square.

2:12 pm - Linke (Left) party leader Katja Kipping says that "Most people demonstrated peacefully.

"Unfortunately not everyone stuck to the consensus for the action. We want that to change.

"But we also want a different, a social policy in Europe."

Meanwhile Police Union chairman Oliver Malchow said that "We can't assume that the wave of violence only took place this morning," in advance of further demonstrations this afternoon.

2:07 pm - Blockupy now says that 107 people were injured by pepper spray and tear gas and 21 with truncheons.

1:56 pm - Ulrich Wilken now says that Blockupy will do everything to ensure a peaceful demonstration on Wednesday afternoon.

1:20 pm - Representatives from Blockupy are holding a press conference and wanted to distance themselves from the violence earlier in the day. 

"I want to say that this morning did not go as we had wished," said Ulrich Wilken from Blockupy. "This is not what we had planned... I understand the great outrage... but this is not how German demonstration culture should be."

Another Blockupy speaker, Christoph Kleine, said that it was not only police officers who were injured, but also protesters, by police.

"This day was no normal day for the ECB. They almost had to cancel the celebration," he added.

12:50 pm -  Blockupy said they will hold a press conference at 1pm.

12:45 pm - Frankfurt police post a video of protesters attacking police cars and throwing things.

 

12:30 pm - Police report that they are confining another 100 people into a small area.

12:08 pm - meanwhile, demonstrators continue to rib the police on Twitter:

12:07 pm - police are removing demonstrators from Uhlandstraße one by one - carrying them if necessary:

11:58 am - Frankfurt mayor Peter Feldmann addressed the foreign demonstrators present on the city's streets today:

“This is not your town. You hit the average people, the workers, the police and families. Criticism of capitalism is our tradition, it has always been, but it has to be peaceful.”

11:55 am - Frankfurt's streets are almost empty thanks to the ongoing demonstrations and blockades:

11:49 am - Meanwhile arrests are continuing on the streets outside:

11:47 am . Draghi concludes:

"This building is a credit to all those who have worked to bring it to fruition. It is a landmark for the city of Frankfurt. And it provides the ECB with an impressive new home to pursue its mandate.

"But it also stands as a powerful symbol of what European integration is about. It reminds us of where we have come from and where we have come to. Of the horrors that can happen when we split apart, and the huge steps forward we can make when we work together.

"So let us not undo what has been achieved. Let us not hanker for the past. Let us draw on the past to unite us in the present – to build a complete Union that can deliver the stability and prosperity we need.

"We as the central bank will do our part in this process by ensuring the integrity of our single currency. Our shared money is the most tangible sign of the trust we place in one another. As the ECB’s first President, Wim Duisenberg, put it at the launch of the euro more than 16 years ago:

"'A currency is far more than just a medium of exchange … A currency is also part of the identity of people. It reflects what they have in common, now and in the future.'"

Thank you for your attention.

See the full text of Draghi's speech here.

11:46 am - Draghi adds:

11:42 am - Draghi continues:

11:38 am - Mario Draghi is now speaking, and attempting to defend the ECB to the protesters outside:

11:16 am - Supporters of the new Greek Syriza government have also come to demonstrate against the ECB:

11:11 am - kettled Italian demonstrators are now sitting down to hinder police ID checks:

11:08 am - Current and former ECB presidents Mario Draghi and Jean-Claude Trichet have both arrived at the ECB:

And Deutsche Post has cancelled deliveries because of the protests:

11:04 am - Several schools in Frankfurt have sent their pupils home because of the violence, the schools administration told Hessischer Rundfunk:

Meanwhile, a Blockupy spokesperson told the radio station that "we hope the content [of our message] doesn't get lost because certain situations have escalated":

11:01 am - Demonstrators on the Hanauer Landstraße, one of the city's major arteries, are blocked by a police line:

10:57 am - Hessischer Rundfunk now reporting that demonstrators have set a police vehicle on fire with officers still inside:

10:56 am - The east side of the ECB building is now peaceful and local people are beginning to clear up the mess, a Hessischer Rundfunk reporter says:

10:55 am - The focus of demonstrations has now moved away from the ECB building and towards central Frankfurt:

10:49 am - the Pirate Party spots that water cannon have been brought in to Frankfurt from as far afield as Düsseldorf and Leipzig:

10:44 am - Journal Frankfurt reports that pepper spray is still being used by police and shares images of continuing marches by demonstrators.

10:39 am - Guests for the ECB opening ceremony are now arriving by helicopter:

10:36 am - One large group of protesters are now having their ID checked after being encircled for two hours:

10:20 am - Police are now clearing demonstrators off the Flößerbrücke bridge:

 

10:18 am - Frankfurt police say that the situation at the ECB itself is "relaxed and violence-free":

10:16 am - Hessische Rundfunk reports that "Many demonstrators are disappointed. Some groups came from abroad just to start a fight.

"What's going on here on the street has nothing to do with political protest."

10:12 am - Demonstrators have scaled a skyscraper and unfurled a banner reading "Capitalism Kills".

 

10:08 am - Frankfurt police say demonstrators are infringing the "distance zone" around the ECB building.

10.05 am A protester, Peter Krabowski, told The Local from the vicinity of the ECB building: “The police are using a lot of tear gas. Whenever the demonstrators get too close to the ECB building then the police push them back with tear gas.”  

“There are cars burning barricades burning.. there is a lot of actions from both sides.”

He added that the police seem to have developed a new way of firing the tear gas which means that the substance is being spread over a very large area.

Referring to the violence of certain protesters, he said "disappointed is too strong a word. I can't judge their actions, although I choose to demonstrate in a different way. I don't feel limited by what they do."

The demonstrators have come from across Europe, Krabowski said. “This is a good thing. It shows solidarity.”

Explaining his reasons for participating, Krabowski had earlier told The Local: "It's an important opportunity to criticize the financial policies within the Eurozone, as symbolized by the ECB, and to make it public that there are alternatives to the current model."  

10:01 am - anti-globalization group Attac tweets a photo of the "ECB fortress on the [river] Main" - with police boats, water cannon and helicopters.

 

9:58 am - Justice Minister Heiko Maas has taken to Twitter to criticize the violence.

"Whoever misuses the right to demonstrate will feel the full toughness of the law," he said. "Violence against the police is never justified."

He added a few minutes later that "Everyone has the right to criticize institutions like the ECB. Pure rampaging crosses all boundaries in the political battle of ideas."

9:52 am - Police say they have arrested around 350 people who committed crimes around the Blockupy demonstration.

9:20 am - The Minister for Europe, Michael Roth, said on Twitter that he was "appalled" by Blockupy. "The ECB helps EU member states to overcome the crisis! [It is] neither the enemy nor justification for violence," he tweeted.

9:15 am - Scenes directly in front of the ECB were tranquil, Frankfurt police reported on Twitter, saying "a protest can also look like this. Everything OK here."

Things were calming down elsewhere in the city too.

8:37 am - “The atmosphere is aggressive,” said police spokeswoman Claudia Rogalski. But she added that the police were prepared to deal with the violence.

“We said right from the start that we were expecting violence, and our plans are naturally built around this eventuality. We are in the city with the necessary manpower.”

In the vicinity of the old opera house in the city centre, demonstrators attacked the police with stones; at least one police officer was injured.

Police patrols were attacked in several other locations.

According to the police, the demonstrators blocked a bridge over the river Main and the Ratswegskreisel, an important junction in the east of the city.

In the vicinity of the new European Central Bank (ECB) headquarters in the east of the city, a police car was set on fire. Suspected demonstrators were seen running away.

In several locations, rubbish containers were set alight. In west Frankfurt, several cars had already been set on fire on Tuesday night.

And the Frankfurt fire service said on Twitter that their colleagues were under attack.

In front of the ECB headquarters a silent vigil began early on Wednesday morning. Demonstrators are reporting that the police used tear gas.

A spokesperson for Blockupy claimed to know nothing about attacks on police.

Later on Wednesday morning, the ECB's new building is to be officially opened, although it has been in use for several months.

The police are assuming that at least 10,000 demonstrators against the Eurozone's austerity policies will show up.

For more news from Germany, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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