The article below was written for ROARmag.org, where you can read and enjoy an illstrated version: “Blockupy paralyzes Frankfurt fort second year in a row”. It is an honour get the opportunity to write for that website . I hope to do it again, now and then.
This Saturday, 1 June, was not just the day of the breakthrough of protest in Turkey, with the police withdrawing from Taksim Square and thousands of protesters occupying the place. At the same day, protesters demonstrated against a central financial institution in the heartland af neoliberal Europe, Germany, a day after actually blockading it. For the second your a sizable, militant Blockupy action was held around the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt: Blockupy!
The choice of target is as significant as the name of the action. The ECB is part of the Trojka: ECB, EU and IMF, together imposing stringent austerity policies in return for bail-outs. Simply said; Greek government ows billions to Western banks; troika loans billions to Greek government to pay back its creditors; troika demands that Greek government lowers be pensions,attacks social de securuty, lays off workers in the public sectorm all to save some more money to give to the creditors. The same in Spain, the same in Portugal, the same in… The ECB, as part of that troika, is rightly seen as centrally responsible for this bail-out-cum-austerity package deal.
It is this austerity which is kicking millions into poverty, homelessness and an unemployment that has grown to enormous heights in Greece, Spain, Portugal. Unemployment in all Eurozone countries combined stands at 12,2 percent; youth unemployment is 24,4 percent. These are averages. In Greece, no less than 62,5 percent of those of 25 years of age and younger, were unemplyed in February.
Austerity is pushing economy into chronic recession: people who don’t have money, cannot spend it in shops; markets for what is being produced are drying up; even more people lose their jobs. From a mainstream economic point of view, austerity ‘is nog working’: is makes the crisis worse, not better. But from the view of bankers and creditors wanting their money back, it is working well. And from the view of capitalists and giovenrments whio want to get rid of as many taxes and of social security as possible anyway, it is working splendidly, thank you very much.
But the whole austerity programme is provoking an enormous anger – and the Blockupy protests are both an expression of that anger and a support to all those suffering and fighting back. Here lies the significance of the name: it is, as it were, an escalation of the Occupy movement which earlier limited itself mostly with occupying a public place. This action does not just occupy; it actually – if only temporarily and symbolically – intends to block one of the central institutioans of European capitalism. Of course, the state reacts – in its usual repressive manner.
On 31 May there was an actual blockade of the ECB building in Frankfurt. Demonstrators, several thousands of them, blocked the entrance streets to the bank building. “Humanity above profitability” was one of the slogans. Police was at the scene, with water cannons ready. A police helicopter kept watch. There were scuffles, and a number of arrests. There was a demonstration near the airport as well.
On 1 June, there was the next Blockupy activity, a demonstration in Frankfort.. This started peacefully – until riot police blocked the route. Fighting began, wirth a fes demonstrators throwing stuff and police kettling demonstrators and attacking them with pepper spray and all. Exact numbers arte not clear, Sunday’s Zaman, a Turkish news site mentions “7000 protesters”, “signs reading ‘Make love, not war’ and ‘IMF, get out of Greece’” . Dutch media talk of “thousands of demonstrators”, which , translated back into the reality-based community, usually MANY thousands. However, it was not just the protest in Frankfurt that was important. Protesters rallied in Portugal, Greece, Spain – three countries where austerity and impoverishment have struck hardest. It was truly an international action day, of which we need more.
Compared with last year, the thing seems to have been quite strong, a step forward. Last year there wad Blockupy in Frankfurt as well – but the police made demonstrating almost impossible with preventive arrests and massie presence. People jokingly said thet there was an effective blockade of the ECB back then – by the police itself, wose presence blocked traffic quite effectively. This year, it seems that there was much more of an actual blockade by demonstrators itself, and that is progress. Hopefully , demonstrators will be back in stronger force next year – and maybe much, much sooner.