Anti-banking protests continue on the streets of Germany
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets across the world in protest against big banks and corporations. In Germany alone, around 40,000 people demonstrated and the dissatisfaction is growing.
Colin Below, an organizer of the "Occupy Frankfurt" movement told the AFP news agency on Sunday that protesters would remain there "indefinitely."
Police in Berlin, where an estimated 10,000 people took part in protests on Saturday, said they had prevented demonstrators setting up camp in front of the German parliament building overnight.
"Democracy" flailed about under the cloudless fall sky during a protest in the German city Cologne on Saturday. Its red mouth wide open, the more than three-meter tall puppet waves its foam hands about in the air. Blood runs from one of its eyes.
Globalization critics from the organization Attac brought their ailing democracy puppet with them to Cologne's Chlodwigplatz for their demonstration. Next to the puppet, a small speaker is ready and the microphone has already been plugged in.
A growing number of people stream into the square at the south end of Cologne, carrying banners with slogans like "get outraged" and "real democracy now."
Activists worldwide have waited for this day with anticipation. In September, the Spanish movement "Real Democracy Now!" scheduled October 15 as a global day of protest. The American movement "Occupy Wall Street" quickly reacted, calling for international "occupy" branches to be established in solidarity with the Spanish movement.
The organization of the global protest day took place on the internet, based on the model of the Arab Spring uprisings. Numerous new Facebook fan pages, Twitter channels, live blogs and wikis were created, providing the sympathetic and the interested with a digital forum to quickly discuss and exchange ideas.
The Facebook site "Occupy Cologne/Köln" had 1,800 fans by the time the protest kicked off, much fewer than "Occupy Frankfurt" with more than 6,300 fans or "Occupy the London Stock Exchange" with 16,331 fans.
Solidarity with countries in crisis
By about eleven in the morning, a few hundred people have gathered at Cologne's Chlodwigplatz as the first participant grabs the microphone.
"A lot has been said about the banking crisis and the dictatorship of the financial markets," says the gray-haired man with a beard who holds several sheets of paper in his hand. "Louder" shouts one listener. He catches his breath.
"But in Greece, German companies are also participating in the privatization of Greek companies," he says. "Corporate concerns that have banks themselves."
And that's the reason why one has to oppose the dictatorship of the markets in general, the man continued.
He won't be the last person to talk about Greece today. Rainer, 60 years old, carries a small piece of cardboard with a Greek flag in front of him. The flag intentionally looks a bit like a euro bill.
"Greece has only been perceived as a money problem and the people and society have taken a back seat," he says.
Fear for the future
"Fundamentally, there are a few indicators which show that the situation is worse for people in the US and in southern Europe," Simon Teune, an expert on social movements and protest culture, told Deutsche Welle. "In terms of youth unemployment and entry salaries, the situation is extremely bad in Spain and Greece for example."
Although the situation for many people in Germany is not that much better and many people do live on the poverty line, society has generally not picked up on the problem.
"In Germany, many people simply do not perceive that the crisis is a problem, because the economic numbers are not that bad," said Teune, who works with the Social Science Research Center in Berlin.
At the demonstration in Cologne, there is at least a sense that the crisis may also be felt more strongly in Germany in future.
That's the reason why Stefanie has mixed with the demonstrators, although she originally just wanted to go shopping, "because you have to do something."
The activists, surrounded by curious onlookers, are a mixed group. Many of them have gray hair and look like old demonstrators from the famous protest year 1968. There are also many leftist groups who carry banners and flags.
"There are many people who in principle belong to the middle class, but who fear that they could slide down the social ladder," says sociologist Simon Teune, who adds that the protesters are generally younger people.
Miniature bank sit-in
But the younger people, the typical internet users, are not a conspicuously large group at the Chlodwigplatz.
"Someone a bit younger could step up to the microphone," calls one of the organizers of the demonstration. And a young woman promptly responds.
"My name is Ellen and I am 21," she says. "I just want to tell all the young people that they must not be afraid of developing their own viewpoints. Even if you think perhaps you don't have enough knowledge, you can have a voice and you can use it out loud."
Applause erupts and Ellen yells "Freedom not Fear" into the microphone before leaving the stage.
In the meantime, around 1,500 people have come to the square. Slowly the protest march begins to get underway. After about 200 meters, some activists try to occupy a small bank branch as they sit in front of the door.
"Now we're all going to try to get in there," calls one man into the microphone. There is a brief scuffle with five police officers who are guarding the bank and then everything is calm again.
Lasting structures of protest
"I am very satisfied," says Peter Weissenfeld, one of the organizers, before the demonstration comes to a close. "It is a broad and colorful movement here. Many small groups have organized themselves and hopefully the people will hold together for the long haul."
For Teune, the ability of the demonstrators to stick together will decide whether or not their movement is a success.
"The indignants in southern Europe gained notoriety because so many people were able to occupy the streets and squares for such a long time," Teune said.
Lasting structures have to be developed so that the protests can continue to have an impact over the long run, but they have gotten off to a pretty good start. Around 40,000 people took to the streets today in 50 German cities in order to protest for a world with more democracy and against the crisis of capitalism, caused by the banks and large corporations.