Between 150 and 200 people camped in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) on Sunday night and into Monday morning, according to the organisers of “Occupy Frankfurt,” part of the worldwide Occupy Wall Street movement that started in New York City.
In Hamburg about a dozen activists set up camp in front of the HSH Nordbank following a weekend in which tens of thousands of Germans marched in cities throughout the country.
Protests against the global financial system appeared across Europe over the weekend, attracting thousands of protesters in cities from Rome to London, with rare incidents of violence. So far there have been related demonstrations in at least 80 countries.
The protests have stayed relatively civil in Germany, though there were isolated clashes in front of the German parliament on Saturday, when police stopped people trying to camp after a march attended by roughly 10,000 people.
In Frankfurt Monday, people outside the ECB pledged not to give up. “We are here for political reasons, not for partying,” said one man who called himself Thomas, but refused to give a last name. He said Frankfurt citizens had been dropping off money, blankets and tents to support the protests.
“We’re staying as long as we have permits to stay,” said Aaron Kraus, 22, who has been there since the protests began on Saturday. “If we have to clear the place, we’ll leave peacefully, but we’re constantly applying for new permits to stay.”
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said the protestors’ actions reflected a “deep concern and legitimate desire for human justice.” He said Chancellor Angela Merkel had sympathy for their cause, but that it is too simple to just blame banks.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said the government was taking the situation “very seriously,” and warned of a “crisis of the democratic system.” He called for stronger and fairer regulation of the banking sector.
Former finance minister Oskar Lafontaine, who later led The Left party, told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that he thought this was the start of something bigger.
“I hope the protests grow,” he said.
The protests started on New York’s Wall Street in mid-September and have since attracted worldwide attention.