A woman protesting against the European Central Bank leaped onto a desk in front of ECB President Mario Draghi on Wednesday as he spoke at a news conference in Frankfurt, disrupting the usually somber event before she was carried away.
“End the ECB dictatorship,” she shouted, throwing confetti and sheets of paper at Draghi as she stood above him. Her T-shirt bore a similar message, spelling it “Dick-tatorship”, Reuters reported.
Bloomberg News identified the activist as Josephine Witt.
On a sheet of paper she left behind criticizing “this illegitimate institution”, she wrote: “A press conference is not enough to call it democracy … The ECB’s debt is not yet paid.”
A startled Draghi held up his hands as the woman showered him with the confetti. After the brief interruption, he returned to the podium to continue the news conference.
The woman flashed a V for victory sign and smiled as two men in gray suits bundled her away holding her arms and legs.
A women’s rights group calling itself Femen International claimed responsibility for the protest on Twitter, Reuters reported. German police said they had detained a 21-year-old woman from Hamburg.
In a statement, the ECB said the activist had registered as a journalist and had gone through security checks before she entered the building.
The ECB has been at pains to distance itself from politics in Europe but many distrust the influential institution. Recent violent protests in Frankfurt have targeted the ECB for the spending cuts demanded in Greece and elsewhere.
Witt told Bloomberg in a telephone interview that she gained access to the room using normal procedures.
“I got in like anybody else — there’s this airport control thing, but I didn’t carry any weapons except for confetti in my bag,” Witt said. “I registered for access beforehand, and they just checked the name and then I got inside. It was very easy.”
An ECB spokesman said that nobody under the name of Josephine Witt registered for the press conference. Witt said she didn’t use that name to sign up.
“What’s very concerning to me is that Mario Draghi as ECB president is not actually serving the societies, but imposing rules on them — without ever being elected,” the 21-year-old said. “This press conference is the little, little bit of democracy that the ECB gave us. I used this opportunity to express my criticism.”
Witt said that while she once belonged to Femen, an international feminist organization, on this occasion she acted alone.
She said she’d given the name of a media organization for whom she doesn’t work in her accreditation request. The ECB said in an earlier statement that was the case.
Witt said she spent about 2 1/2 hours in police custody before being released, and doesn’t know if the ECB plans to press charges.
“Obviously I have my little list in my head of personalities that I think deserve no rest and deserve an attack,” she said. “Draghi surely was on that list. I have done a lot of protests in the past. I am sure I’ll continue.”
Watch Bloomberg video on YouTube:
– Contact us at [email protected]