The European Central Bank’s opening was greeted with riots and mayhem in Germany. What was supposed to be a peaceful protest over ECBs austerity measures in regards to Greece, turned ugly when over 7,000 demonstrators violently clashed with German police officials on Wednesday.
The battles began in the wee hours of the morning in the city of Frankfurt, according to Yahoo News. In an effort to target the Central Bank for its part in supervising efforts to reduce debt and restrain spending costs in financially problematic countries such as Greece, protesters had hoped to get their message across. While the bulk of the individuals demonstrating had peaceful intent demonstrated by drumming, singing and marching in groups, there were others activists that used this as a cover for their own cause.
Heiko Maas is the German Justice Minister who criticized the violent protesters for causing harm to the community. He scolded the rioters saying that everyone has the right to show their displeasure for institutions such as the ECB, but rioting and causing damage goes beyond the limits in wars of political opinion.
The inauguration ceremony was allowed to go on as planned. ECB President Mario Draghi thanked those in attendance, despite the difficulties that went around outside the building. Draghi is proud of the new headquarters as it’s a symbol of what can be achieved throughout Europe.
While Draghi’s message seemed positive, the battle in the streets grew heavy. Officials said that they had made a significant number of arrests. Most of the charges stemmed from violations of arson and disturbing the peace after police cars were set ablaze and official buildings pelted with rocks and debris.
Firefighters were also involved in the fracas after being called out 47 times to put out flames from barricades, burning cars and turned over garbage containers.
Blockupy is an alliance that is made up of leftist groups, DW wrote when reporting on the Eurozone crisis. While most of their organized protests are against the European Central Bank, Blockupy made attempts to distance themselves from Wednesday’s violence. A spokesman for the group said that while they understood how people could be angry at the policies of impoverishment, this is not what Blockupy had in mind for the opening. Another spokesman for the group estimated there were close to 6,000 activists who had joined in the morning’s efforts to protesting the opening, including another 1,000 outside of Germany.
Law enforcement officials said that over 80 officers had been injured by the irritant gas. However, they were put back on duty later in the day. It was also believed that approximately 100 demonstrators were also harmed by the pepper spray and tear gas being used to thwart the violence.
Peaceful Afternoon Rally
A march and rally through the center of the historic square in Frankfurt later in the afternoon drew approximately 20,000 people. As the sun set for the day, the rally remained peaceful with those in attendance chanting “solidarity means resistance.” While this went on, police helicopters kept a keen eye on the crowd overhead and a large contingent of officers looked on nearby.
The main target of the demonstrator’s anger was the ECB’s new headquarters. Draghi addressed the 100 guests who were invited to the low-key ceremony. He rejected any blame for problems related to austere policies and budget cuts amid the financial disaster across Europe. As an EU institution that has played a primary role in the crisis, ECB has become a target for those frustrated. Other notables such as Vice Chancellor Sigmar Garbriel feels that blaming the ECB for all of Europe’s worries shows a lack of understanding over what the ECB is actually doing to unite Europe.
Massive Police Deployment
While the community has seen its fair share of violence, authorities put into action one of the largest police contingents known to the city. A March 2012 rally was another memorable occurrence where violence erupted. Protestors went on a rampage seriously injuring a police officer and causing roughly one million euros in damages.
Leading politicians in Berlin condemned this sort of violence and feel that no group should have the right to threaten both life and limb to those who are assigned to protect us.
The ceremony for the ECB was symbolic as the banking staff had already made their move into the new location last year. Until that time, they had been housed in downtown Frankfort at the Eurotower.
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