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Police Cars Burned at German Austerity Protest

  • Associated Press

Smoke billows over burning barricades in front of the new ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

Smoke billows over burning barricades in front of the new ECB headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

Demonstrators set at least two police cars on fire Wednesday as authorities confronted left-wing anti-austerity protesters trying to blockade the inauguration ceremony for the European Central Bank's new headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

Police said one officer was injured by stones thrown by demonstrators near the city's Alte Oper opera house.

Police put up barricades and barbed wire around the ECB headquarters as they braced for demonstrations against government austerity measures and capitalism. Protesters targeted the ECB because of the bank's role in supervising efforts to restrain spending and reduce debt in financially troubled countries such as Greece.

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.

Some 10,000 people were 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 Greece and other financially troubled countries in Europe. Those conditions include spending cuts 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” during the protest, although some employees may work from home.

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