German and international media not reporting
Frankfurt on lock-down as over 5.000 police are deployed in an unprecedented operation to keep protesters out of the city and away from the banks.
The atmosphere here in Frankfurt is tense. The police is omnipresent.
The sound of sirens permeates the city streets. As I write this, some
thousands of protesters are huddled together at the university, pitching
tents or simply squatting a place on the ground to try and catch some
sleep before tomorrow’s big actions. But as the activists here prepare
to physically block the headquarters of the European Central Bank, the police already seems to have done the job for them.
The entire city is on lock-down. Roadblocks sever the main traffic
arteries going into the city center. Everywhere, small squads of riot
police patrol the streets looking for anyone who looks “suspicious”
(i.e., like a potential Leftist). Shops and banks downtown have
barricaded their windows with wooden planks, and at almost any random
corner you will find a line of police vans, sometimes as many as 50 or
60 parked in a row. It feels like Frankfurt is preparing for civil war.
A few times today, small groups of people tried to make their voices
heard by protesting or camping in one of the city’s squares. At some
point, over 1,000 gathered in the central square, while later a small
tent camp was set up elsewhere. Yet on every single occasion, the
protesters were met with thousands of policemen who quickly cordoned off
the squares, forced those present to identify themselves, and then
continued by dragging them away one by one.
While German media report at least 150 arrests so far, the actual
numbers are likely to be much higher. We have seen dozens of people
arrested for “offenses” as simple as being in the wrong place at the
wrong time; or carrying around a sleeping bag into the city center. The
Italian newspaper Repubblica reports that 100 Italians alone have been arrested; leaving aside the Germans, Greeks, French, and countless other nationalities who have descended upon the city.
The Blockupy actions, scheduled to culminate in a large demonstration
on Saturday, have already been banned by authorities (a ban that was,
bizarrely enough, upheld by the country’s highest constitutional court).
In an attempt to enforce
this absurd ban, over 5.000 police have been drawn in from across the
country. So far, it seems that there are at least 2.5 policemen to every
protester in the city. The overreaction of the authorities is truly
This morning, as we walked towards the central station with four
friends, we were stopped by a group of eight riot police who took our
IDs, searched our bags and bodies and, after not finding anything
suspicious, threatened us with immediate arrest if they found us in the
city center again. In other words, not only does the state rudely
violate the constitutional right to assembly; it also denies average
citizens and independent journalists access to public spaces.
A caravan of three buses coming from Berlin was stopped before even
arriving in Frankfurt, and directed straight back to Berlin under police
escort. A kettling operation at the train station this morning ensured
that those arriving by train could not join others gathering in the city
center. Anywhere we tried to go, we literally had to keep an eye out
not to run into more riot police and risk being arrested simply for
walking in the street. It truly looks like a police state here.
Indeed, in Frankfurt, the financial capital of continental Europe, it
feels like democracy has temporarily been put on halt. In the process,
the state once again reveals its true nature. In an attempt to protect
the city’s powerful banks, millions of euros are expended and basic
constitutional rights suspended just to maintain a degree of control
over the situation. Yet the intensity of the repression is only likely
to further stir frustration among the protesters here.
In the most bizarre twist of all, the German and international media do not appear to be reporting on this extreme situation at all. When
hundreds of peaceful protesters are arrested in Russia, our leaders and
newspapers are quick to denounce Putin for being a dictator. Yet when
it happens in a civilized society and advanced economy like Germany, the
peaceful protesters are suddenly denounced as violent criminals — or
simply not spoken about at all.
Tomorrow we will not only take the struggle to the ECB; we will also fight for our right to protest.