Over 1,000 anti-capitalist protesters rally at ECB

FRANKFURT (AFP) - More than a thousand people rallied in front of the European Central Bank in the pouring rain on Friday to protest austerity policies across different countries in the euro area.

In a demonstration organised by the anti-capitalist movement Blockupy, police put the number of participants at 1,200-1,500 while the organisers themselves claimed there were 3,000 protesters.

Barriers have been set up around the ECB's Eurotower headquarters in Frankfurt's city centre for days now to prevent demonstrators from getting too close.

Police said that "several hundred" officers have been deployed in the city centre, aided by surveillance helicopters. But a police spokesman refused to say exactly how many officers were involved.

"Protesters have tried to climb over the barriers," the spokesman said, adding that pepper spray had been used by police to repel them.

An ECB spokeswoman said that the bank had taken measures to ensure the security of its employees, in coordination with the police.

"The ECB will remain operational during demonstrations," the central bank said in a statement.

The demonstrators are protesting against the austerity measures and the handling of the euro crisis by the European Union and also plan to blockade and disrupt the operations of banks such as Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest, which is also headquartered in Frankfurt.

A number of banks have asked employees to work from home.

On Saturday, which marks the ECB's 15th birthday, a large demonstration is planned in the city centre with organisers expecting as many as 20,000 participants.