Protesters, police clash near new European bank HQ in Frankfurt

Wed Mar 18, 2015 2:36pm EDT
 
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By John O'Donnell and Frank Siebelt

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Anti-capitalist protesters clashed with riot police near the new headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt on Wednesday and set fire to barricades and cars, casting a pall over the ceremonial opening of the billion-euro skyscraper.

Some 94 police officers were injured by stones and tear gas flung by a violent minority from within the 3,500 protesters, police said. Rally organizers 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 rubbish bins, and shops were damaged in the city center. Dark smoke billowed in front of the 185-metre high ECB towers and over Frankfurt.

Police used water cannon to try to make a path through the mass of black-clad protesters to the entrance of the building, blocked off from the street by barricades. A total of 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 the 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," he said.   Continued...

 
Protesters burn debris during an anti-capitalist demonstration in Frankfurt March 18, 2015.      REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay