Germany: Blockupy Frankfurt defies bans, cops to reject austerity

'Blockyupy Frankfurt' march, May 19. Photo by Jody Betzien.

Up to 30,000 protesters from across Europe took to the streets on May 19 in the financial district of Frankfurt. The rally, which lasted for seven hours, ended outside the European Central Bank (ECB).

The protest, “Blockupy Frankfurt”, was part of a three-day action, organised to oppose the European debt crisis policies of the “troika” made up of the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.

These polices include the so-called Eurozone bailout funds, which have helped push people across Europe into poverty and the dismantled democratic rights.

At the start of March, 25 out of 27 European Union states signed the European Fiscal Pact. The pact determines strict financial austerity measures to reduce state debt.

For countries not implementing these measures, penalties can be imposed such as a withdrawal of credits and the right to manage their own state finances.

In this way, it undermines sovereign state decision making powers. The EU states have until the start of next year to vote on the pact.

All EU states are affected by the pact, but countries most affected by the debt crisis such as Greece will be hit hardest. The pact demands greater cuts to social services, lower wages, privatisation and public sector cuts.

This approach is being pushed by the German government, which was one reason Frankfurt was selected to host the international protest.

In Germany, working conditions and wages have been systematically worsened over the past 10 years, granting German capital relative shelter from the financial crisis.

“Blockupy”is a broad alliance of left-wing groups, anti-globalisation groups, trade unions, and the Occupy movement.

Blockupy opposes social austerity and the authoritarian transformation of Europe, calling for international solidarity for a social and democratic Europe.

As an alternative to the Fiscal Pact, its demands included higher taxes on wealthy sections of society.

The Frankfurt City Council and the police sought to ban all protests, claiming demonstrators planned violence and that security for Frankfurt's residents could not be guaranteed.

The only ban lifted by the courts on appeal was for the May 19 international protest. The courts said enforcement of the ban on all other protests in the lead up to May 19 was a condition for the May 19 demonstration to be allowed.

Such a far-reaching ban on public protests had been unheard of in Germany since Word War II.

Despite more than 5000 police besieging the city, about 1000 protesters entered Frankfurt and were able to meet in the central square on May 17 and 18. Between 400 and 600 people were arrested and detained, the large majority released without charge.

The May 19 march was a colourful and peaceful demonstration, despite the fear-mongering and intimidation exerted from the City of Frankfurt and police. It exposed the bans on protests as absurd.