Anti-capitalist protesters demonstrate against Europe's austerity approach to debt crisis

FRANKFURT – Crowds of anti-capitalist protesters on Friday blocked streets leading to the European Central Bank in Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt, to protest its role in pushing for austerity cutbacks as a way to fight the continent’s debt crisis.

Members of the Blockupy alliance linked arms for several hours in a steady rain and strong wind on the streets leading to the bank. A few demonstrators grabbed and shook the metal police barricades surrounding the bank.

Police brought out a truck equipped with a water cannon, but it was not used. One police officer used pepper spray while being confronted by demonstrators at one barricade.

A spokesman for the ECB said the bank remained in operation, without providing details about where all its employees were working. Police said they had assisted some employees in getting to the building.

Blockupy said they wanted to underline what they say is the ECB’s role in promoting austerity cutbacks. Along with the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, the ECB is part of the so-called troika that monitors compliance with the conditions of bailout loans negotiated by the governments of Greece, Portugal and Ireland. Those conditions include spending cuts and tax increases aimed at reducing debt. The measures, however, have also worsened recessions and unemployment.

Police reported no arrests and estimated the number of demonstrators at between 1,000 and 1,500. Organizers said there were more than 3,000.

After the ECB demonstration, several hundred protesters moved to Deutsche Bank’s headquarters not far away.

Spokesman Roland Suess said the demonstration was a success. “We wanted to blockade the ECB and we did that with more than 3,000 people.”

Blockupy includes people who participated in the Occupy movement which protested the role of global capitalism by camping out in cities in a number of countries, as well as critics of globalization and members of left-wing organizations.