FRANKFURT, May 30 (Reuters) - Thousands of demonstrators from the anti-capitalist Blockupy movement will seek to cut off access to the ECB and other financial institutions in Frankfurt on Friday, to protest at their handling of Europe’s debt crisis.
The demonstrations in Germany’s financial capital come ahead of Europe-wide gatherings planned for June 1 and roughly a year after police detained hundreds of people for defying a temporary ban on protests at a similar four-day event in Frankfurt.
The movement’s organisers say they aim to “visibly disturb” the usual business of the European Central Bank as well as other institutions like Deutsche Bank, which they blame for the recession in the euro zone’s heavily indebted periphery.
“The ECB is part of the troika and is one of those institutions responsible for pushing austerity measures and making people in southern Europe suffer,” Blockupy spokesman Martin Sommer said.
He expects several thousand people to take part on Friday, while the streets of Frankfurt’s skyscraper-filled financial district could be filled with as many as 20,000 for the wider action on Saturday.
Around 500 people have already moved into a camp on the western outskirts of Frankfurt, and that number is expected to rise to more than 1,200 during the day as busloads of protesters arrive from Berlin, Italy and Spain, Sommer said.
Frankfurt police said they would cordon off the streets around the ECB building, while the underground train station on the square where the building is located will be closed from Thursday and certain trams diverted.
On Twitter, some watchers predicted the police would do a better job at ‘blocking’ the city than the protesters. Last year police shut off much of Frankfurt’s city centre ahead of the demonstration, which was largely peaceful.
Their task has been made easier by the fact that Thursday is a public holiday in the surrounding state of Hesse. Many of the city’s banks have urged staff to take Friday as holiday too. The ECB said it had taken measures to remain operational and ensure the safety of its staff.
In the afternoon, the demonstrators will divide up, with some blocking the entrance to Deutsche Bank’s twin towers, to protest about food speculation and land grabbing. Activists have been asked to bring pots and pans to bang.
A second group will head to the city centre to protest against rising rents, while around 200 will highlight racism and ‘deportation’ at Frankfurt airport, Europe’s third busiest hub.
Airport operator Fraport has filed a legal action after the protesters were given permission to gather within the terminal building and not just outside. A ruling from the court in Kassel is expected later on Thursday.