Thousands attempt to occupy squares and blockade the ECB in Frankfurt, Germany. Protests are banned.
Germany has seen an unprecedented breach of democratic rights by the Frankfurt/Main council, courts, and the police against the “Blockupy” protest movement, which called days of actions from 16 to 19 May to occupy squares in the financial centre of Frankfurt/Main and block the European Central Bank.
“Blockupy” is a broad alliance of various left-wing, anti-globalisation groups, trade union activists, and the Occupy movement, such as the Left Party, Attac, the far left “Interventionist Left”, and some trade union branches, including the teachers’ union, GEW. Sozialistische Alternative (SAV), the German section of the CWI, participates in the alliance and mobilised for the protests.
The Frankfurt council, run by a coalition of the conservative CDU and the Greens, however, banned all the protests, claiming that the demonstrators are planning heavy violence and that security for the people of the city, bank workers, and shopkeepers cannot be guaranteed. Hundreds of activists nationally received an exclusion order for the city of Frankfurt during the days of the protests. Even a rally in commemoration of the homosexual victims of fascism – which would have had nothing to do with the Blockupy protests – was banned. This certainly is a new development in state repression against democratic and social protest movements. The only ban which was lifted by the courts was the ban on the international demonstration that will take place tomorrow, Saturday, 19 May. But the courts, following their own twisted logic, argued that the ban on all other protests in the previous days is a condition for the legalisation of that demonstration.
Beginning on Wednesday, 16 May, activists travelled to Frankfurt and the following day started all kinds of activities. The legal Occupy camp in front of the European Central Bank building was declared illegal just for the days of the Blockupy protests and forcefully evacuated by the police on Wednesday morning. Some hundred protestors tried to stop this by a peaceful blockade, which included Left Party MPs and members of SAV.
The buses from Berlin were stopped on the motorway and searched for hours. Everybody on the buses received an exclusion order for Frankfurt. In a breach of freedom of the press, a reporter for the SAV website sozialismus.info also received such an order despite showing his press card. But despite more than 5,000 police effectively besieging the whole city, some thousand protestors entered Frankfurt/Main and were able to come together in the central squares. Hundreds held copies of the German Grundgesetz (the “Basic Law” – Germany’s constitution) into the air to point to the fact that basic rights were being broken. Even this symbolic protest was banned by the police.
These events – along with the bans on square occupations in Spain and other instances of state repression – show how capitalism is getting more authoritarian as the the Euro crisis intensifies and protest movements and left-wing forces continue to grow in Greece, France, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. But they also show that protest and resistance cannot be banned if people stand together. Unfortunately, the German trade unions, with a few exceptions, have not called or mobilised for the Blockupy protests. Had they done so, the pressure against state repression could have been much more powerful, and the protests themselves would have attracted many more workers and youth. Also, the Blockupy alliance must discuss if enough was done to reach out to the ordinary population of Frankfurt, especially the bank workers.
Still, after only two days, the Blockupy protests have already achieved one thing: they have given a signal to the fighting workers in Greece, Spain, and other countries that even in Germany – the belly of the beast, the dominant power in the EU – there is protest and resistance against the imposition of austerity on the peoples of Europe. And crucially, the main aim of the days of action has been achieved – with the help of the police and the bank corporations: the financial centre of Germany has been brought to a halt today because of thousands of demonstrators, and because bank workers were asked to take a day off or work from their “home office” today.
Download SAV’s leaflet for the Blockupy protests here.