Though there have been few large demonstrations in Germany against the austerity measures introduced by the European Union, it was inevitable that Frankfurt, the home of the European Central Bank, would become a target. Blockupy Frankfurt called for a series of protests and actions ‘against the austerity dictatorship’ from 16 to 19 May, culminating on Saturday in a march to the ECB. I spoke to Thomas Seibert, a philosopher and member of Blockupy Frankfurt, at the Subversive Forum in Zagreb. ‘We wanted to say there is a choice,’ he said. ‘We don’t have to stick to the German government. We wanted to say, in the Occupy sense, we are the 99 per cent.’
The authorities in Frankfurt responded by banning the march, and told the small Occupy camp around the ECB, who have been there for several months, that they had to leave. The Committee for Basic Rights and Democracy have also had their protest banned. The Frankfurt police contacted 480 people who had been kettled during a protest on 31 March to inform them that they were not allowed to enter downtown Frankfurt on Saturday. ‘You have become noticed,’ Seibert says they were told, ‘and the right to demonstrate is not for people who get noticed.’
Blockupy successfully challenged the outright ban on Saturday’s march. However, the ruling by Frankfurt’s Administrative Court contained a number of restrictions. The civic authorities demanded the names of people who would agree to be responsible for the conduct and safety of others, and the route of the march was both shortened and moved away from the area around the ECB. There are already reports of a heavy police presence, and many Metro and tram stations are closed, as are schools, universities, banks and all the offices of the city administration.
‘The city authorities and the police are helping us very much,’ Seibert says. ‘Now the Greens and the Social Democrats have to decide. If they had said you can do that, only the radical Left would come.’
As for what will happen on Saturday, it seems certain that the protestors will challenge the restrictions. Blockupy Frankfurt is part of the tradition of the Interventionist Left, which Seibert characterises as ‘finding a middle way between just peaceful marching on the streets, and then having a rally with people talking, on the one hand, and on the other this tradition by the autonomous left, small black groups attacking very hard.’ The aim is to break through police corridors and prevent kettling and other containment strategies. Seibert used the analogy of two fists heading towards one another, one representing the police, the other the protestors. ‘We call it the finger,’ he said, and explained how protestors will divide at the moment of apparent confrontation. ‘Two of the fingers will be broken by the police, but three of the fingers will come through.’