Police barricade European Central Bank ahead of protests

AP News
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Posted: Mar 17, 2015 1:18 PM
Police barricade European Central Bank ahead of protests

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Police in Frankfurt, Germany, have put up barricades and barbed wire around the headquarters of the European Central Bank as they brace for demonstrations against government austerity and capitalism.

The Blockupy alliance says activists plan to try to blockade the new headquarters of the ECB ahead of a ceremony Wednesday inaugurating the building, and to disrupt what they term capitalist business as usual.

Beyond that, some 10,000 people are expected for a rally in Frankfurt's main square, the Roemerberg. Organizers have chartered a special train bringing demonstrators from Berlin and are busing in others from around Germany and other European countries.

Frankfurt police say most demonstrators are expected to be peaceful, but that violence-prone elements could use the crowds as cover.

The ECB, along with the European Commission and International Monetary Fund, is part of the so-called "troika" that monitors compliance with the conditions of bailout loans for financially troubled countries such as Greece. Those conditions include spending restraint and reducing deficits, moves that are aimed at reducing debt but have also been blamed for high unemployment and slow growth.

Greece's new left-wing government blames such policies for a "humanitarian crisis" leading to poverty for pensioners and the unemployed.

ECB President Mario Draghi has called for more spending by governments that are in good financial shape such as Germany — a call that has been mostly ignored by elected officials.

The ECB says it plans to be "fully operational," although some employees may work from home.