Frankfurt police diverted traffic and erected barriers around banks in Germany’s financial capital amid unauthorized anti-capitalist protests.
Officers blocked the streets around the European Central Bank to motorists and reduced traffic outside Deutsche Bank AG (DBK)’s headquarters to one lane. About 150 protesters gathered close to the ECB and another 150 rallied at the city’s trade fair venue, Isabell Neumann, a police spokeswoman, said by telephone today. Smaller pockets of demonstrators gathered in other parts of the city, she said.
The protests are taking place as disenchantment with Europe and Germany’s response to the sovereign debt crisis grows and Frankfurt, the euro’s birthplace, has become a focal point of the discontent. The demonstrators intend to stop access to places of work, although they failed to obtain the permits required to hold the first three of their four days of planned rallies through Saturday.
“It’s the cops that are doing the occupying,” said Henrike Joerissen, an actress at Frankfurt’s Schauspielhaus who wasn’t part of the protest. “It has never been so calm in the city. I enjoy that.”
“We’re protesting against an economic system that doesn’t work anymore,” said James Baliani, a 28-year-old protester. “The ECB is a part of the troika which acts as a dictator in the interest of the financial institutions. The protests are largely symbolical as the ECB and the banks have closed their doors.”
The ECB has taken steps to remain operational and ensure the safety of its employees and visitors during the protests, the central bank said in a statement yesterday.
Deutsche Bank will protect its staff and clients, Armin Niedermeier, a spokesman for Germany’s biggest bank, said today by phone. Smaller competitor Commerzbank AG (CBK) closed two of its buildings in the city center during the protests, the lender said in a May 15 statement.
About 5,000 police will be deployed throughout the four days of rallies and individuals gathering without a permit are being taken in custody, said Neumann. A group of about 100 protesters met in Frankfurt’s Westend neighborhood while 30 people sought to block off the Friedensbruecke bridge close to the train station this morning, she said.
Eppi Schmitt, a 27-year-old bicycle courier, said orders fell to about half their normal levels today on a lack of demand from banks.
“As a cyclist it is a dream that the city is shut down,” Schmitt said in an interview. “There are no cars, no rush hour. You’ve got the streets for yourself.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Nicholas Comfort in Frankfurt at firstname.lastname@example.org; Joseph de Weck in Frankfurt at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at firstname.lastname@example.org