The long-awaited unveiling of the European Central Bank's massive billion-dollar skyscraper was met with fierce protests Wednesday, as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Frankfurt, Germany, to rally against economic conditions in Europe.
While past protests have been relatively benevolent, Wednesday's action, organized by the activist movement Blockupy, was markedly different. Protesters clashed repeatedly with police, setting fire to cars, furniture and trash, while nearby shops closed their doors as the fighting dragged on, the New York Times reported.
Police told Reuters that 94 officers were injured in the demonstrations, while protest leaders reported that over 100 activists were injured by law enforcement. Water cannons were reportedly used to keep protesters in check, and police said five people were arrested and another 500 were questioned about their involvement.
The protest stemmed from unrest over the economic conditions plaguing Europe, including high unemployment rates and sharp reductions in government spending. The latter comes from harsh austerity measures, which were put in place following the Great Recession and have proven deeply unpopular in Europe.
"We're doing this on the day of the inauguration because there's nothing to celebrate," said Hannah Eberle, a Blockupy spokeswoman, according to the Wall Street Journal. "There's a crisis in Europe, especially southern Europe, and people are being asked to tighten their belts and we don't accept that."
The protests followed comments by Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who called policies by the European Central Bank, which has instituted severe austerity measures against Greece, "asphyxiating," according to Reuters.
"We want the European Central Bank to stop the austerity in Europe that is responsible for mass joblessness. ... People don't have enough to eat," Blockupy spokeswoman Songa Winter told CNN.