Violence erupts at protest as ECB opens €1bn HQ

Anti-capitalist protesters clashed with riot police near the new headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt yesterday and set fire to barricades and cars, coinciding with the ceremonial opening of the €1bn skyscraper.

Some 94 police officers were injured by stones and tear gas thrown by a violent minority from within the 3,500 protesters, police said.

Rally organisers said there were 7,000 protesters, more than 100 of whom were injured by police. Seven police cars were set on fire, streets were blocked by burning stacks of tyres and bins, and shops were damaged. Smoke billowed in front of the 185m ECB towers and over Frankfurt.

Police used water cannon to pave a way through the crowd of black-clad protesters to the entrance of the building. Some 550 protesters were detained.

“Police were attacked with stones and spray. Due to the extreme violence we saw in the morning, we have to assume it could happen again,” a police spokeswoman said.

ECB president Mario Draghi addressed demonstrators in his speech at the opening ceremony but said they were missing the point by blaming the ECB.

“European unity is being strained,” he said. “People are going through very difficult times. There are some, like many of the protesters outside today, who believe the problem is that Europe is doing too little.

“But the euro area is not a political union of the sort where some countries permanently pay for others.

“It has always been understood that countries have to be able to stand on their own two feet — that each is responsible for its own policies. The fact that some had to go through a difficult period of adjustment was therefore not a choice that was imposed on them. It was a consequence of their past decisions.”

German leaders condemned the violence but defended the right to protest.

“No one has the right to endanger the life of police and fire officials,” said finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin.

The protest was organised by a group called Blockupy — named after the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. “Free caviar for everyone,” read one sarcastic banner.


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