This morning when I left the metro station “Lokalbahnhof” on my way to work nothing seemed to be out of the usual – at first sight. Traffic was going loudly and slowly as always until I noticed the mass of cars standing at the crossroads. I walked past a man and a woman who discussed with a police officer standing next to two cars that had apparently crashed.
Entering the office I heard the sounds of a helicopter through the open window. I began to wonder first but then it all made sense: The unusual traffic, helicopters encircling the city and the unnerving slow motion attitude of public transport this morning. Today the new building of the European Central Bank has been officially inaugurated. Tens of thousands of people have met in Frankfurt’s east city to protest against the austerity programs in the European Union. They have even come from other European countries to give voice to their frustration.
Sitting in the office it all seems to be far away to me. The noise outside and the permanent sight of helicopters overviewing the east district with the new ECB tower reminds me of a Hollywood picture in which King Kong is starring. I am checking the headlines now. “Citizens in fear”, is one. Also: “Scenes of protest”. There are pictures of burning police cars, loose stones that have been thrown, two policemen supporting a woman whose nose is bleeding. I see black smoke arising from inflamed tires. What is going on???
This movement which takes place here today in Frankfurt has a name: Blockupy. It unites those people who are dissatisfied with the way the EU is handling its monetary policies. Saving money in times of crisis may seem comprehensible but nobody wants to be the one whose budget and services are being cut drastically. But this is exactly what happened in countries like Spain, Italy or Greece. There are many who lost everything due to the enforced austerity programs of an institution that does not even reside in their country. From their view it must look like a bad joke: The ECB is opening its own new glass temple while so many Europeans fear for their future and the maintenance of their living standards. They see themselves as the losers in the game of financial power and economic recovery. And to be honest about it: Yes, as taxpayers we do have to shoulder the burden of political decisions and economic actions. Europe’s weight is pressing on us heavier than ever.
But who is responsible for the consequences of the measures taken? For sure neither the damaged police cars nor the police itself. For sure not the new ECB tower and least of all not Frankfurt’s citizens who will have to pay for the damages done so far. The real anger and frustration is directed towards decision-makers in politics, the finance lobby and some poor scapegoats working for the ECB. The new ECB tower is merely a symbol and troubling its inauguration ceremony means to raise the highest possible awareness for the cause of the protest.
I am checking the headlines again. There is a peaceful manifestation in the city center. People are standing together and listening to speeches by the movement’s organizers. I hear the distant siren of a police car, probably rushing to prevent another object going up in flames. Ironically it is our tax money that is being sacrificed to the fire. Nobody can predict what will happen in the evening. But one thing is for sure: Violence is no appropriate instrument to vent one’s dissatisfaction.
About the author:
Juliane works for “My Europe” in Frankfurt, Germany.