Thousands of demonstrators from the anti-capitalist Blockupy movement will seek to cut off access to the European Central Bank and other financial institutions in Frankfurt on Friday, to protest their handling of Europe's debt crisis.
The demonstrations in Germany's financial capital come ahead of Europe-wide gatherings planned for June 1 and roughly a year after police detained hundreds of people for defying a temporary ban on protests at a similar four-day event in Frankfurt.
The movement's organizers say they aim to “visibly disturb” the usual business of the ECB and institutions like Deutsche Bank, which they blame for the recession in the heavily indebted eurozone countries such as Spain and Greece.
“The ECB is part of the troika and is one of those institutions responsible for pushing austerity measures and making people in southern Europe suffer,” Blockupy spokesman Martin Sommer said.
The Blockupy movement in Europe came about after the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. Protesters held a four-day demonstration in Frankfurt 12 months ago, coordinated from a camp set up outside the ECB's headquarters.
Sommer said he expects several thousand people to participate on Friday, and that the streets of Frankfurt's skyscraper-filled financial district could be occupied by as many as 20,000 for the wider action on Saturday.
Around 500 people have already moved into a camp on the western outskirts of Frankfurt, and that number is expected to rise to more than 1,200 during the day as busloads of protesters arrive from Berlin, Italy and Spain, Sommer said.
Seven busloads of people on their way into Frankfurt were stopped by police, Blockupy later said. One bus with people from a refugee camp in Berlin was sent back to the capital, it added.
Frankfurt police said they would cordon off the streets around the ECB, while the underground train station on the square where the building is located would be closed from Thursday and certain trams would be diverted.
On Twitter, some watchers predicted the police would do a better job at 'blocking' the city than the protesters. Last year police shut off much of Frankfurt's city center ahead of the demonstration, which was largely peaceful.
Their task has been made easier by the fact that Thursday is a public holiday in the surrounding state of Hesse. Many of the city's banks have urged staff to take Friday as holiday, too. The ECB said it had taken measures to remain operational and ensure the safety of its staff.
In the afternoon, the demonstrators will divide up, with some blocking the entrance to Deutsche Bank's twin towers, to protest about food speculation and land grabbing. Activists have been asked to bring pots and pans to bang.
A second group will head to the city center to protest against rising rents, while around 200 will highlight racism and 'deportation' at Frankfurt airport, Europe's third busiest hub.
A court on Thursday gave permission for the protest to go ahead despite complaints from the airport operator Fraport and the city of Frankfurt, which had wanted to keep the demonstrators outside the terminal building.
The court said, however, that should the number of protesters exceed 200, the gathering could be broken up.
Fraport reiterated its view that it did not understand why the court had decided to let the protesters into the terminal, especially given the movement's history of causing disruption.