Revealed: the protester who 'attacked' Mario Draghi
Published 15/04/2015 | 22:17
The most powerful man in Europe was attacked by a 21-year-old activist on Wednesday, causing chaos at the European Central Bank.
Josephine Witt jumped onto a table in front of Mario Draghi, president of the ECB, and shouted “end the ECB dictatorship” repeatedly. The protester threw paper copies of her demands at Mr Draghi, while showering him with confetti.
Ms Witt, who was formerly associated with radical feminist group Femen and is now acting as a freelance activist, was wearing a T-shirt featuring the words “end the ECB ****-tatorship”.
Ms Witt's letter criticised the ECB for believing itself to be “master of the universe”, warning that “you will hear our outcries louder, brighter, inside and outside your halls, everywhere, and you shall deserve no rest”. She nicknamed the letters "papillons", in reference to the messages distributed by French resistance fighters during the Second World War. Papillon is French for butterfly.
She said: “I do not expect this illegitimate institution to hear my voice, neither to understand my message.” Making reference to her "butterflies" she continued: “Today I’m just a butterfly sending you a sentence, but be afraid more are coming.”
The activist was dragged from the ECB’s press room and taken to a police station in Frankfurt. She claims she was held for around two-and-a-half hours before being released without charge. She then messaged a friend to say: "I'm out of the police station! Whoop whoop!"
To gain access to the press conference, the ECB said Ms Witt "registered as a journalist for a news organisation she does not represent”. Ms Witt told The Telegraph that she had pretended to be working for Vice Media, knowing that they hire many young reporters. The central bank said that it is investigating the incident.
Ms Witt said she would continue to engage in "hardcore activism" in response to what she believed was an "undemocratic" ECB. She added that recent protests in Frankfurt during the opening of the ECB's new offices were a reaction to Mr Draghi's leadership. "[He] never got a mandate, never got voted for or elected," she said.
"He imposes policies on these societies that are completely undemocratic," she added. A friend of Ms Witt said she opposes what she describes as “European neo-liberalism”, and argued that the ECB cannot act “without a state of surveillance, of police and violence”.
The friend stated that Ms Witt wants “peace and happiness for our lives, for Greece, and for all countries around the Mediterranean sea.” Her aim is to introduce a new political order to replace the European Union, with “democracy, civil rights, solidarity, and no borders”, the friend said.
Heidi Schauman, an analyst at Nordea, said: "All those expecting an uneventful ECB press conference were so wrong."
After a brief adjournment, Mr Draghi returned to finish delivering his remarks, asking that 10 minutes be added to the conference's length so that journalists could ask questions.
The ECB demonstration was not the first incident that has landed Ms Witt in trouble. In 2013 she was fined for “disturbance of religious practice” following a topless protest during mass at Cologne cathedral.
Ken Wattret, an economist at BNP Paribas, said: "After a rather shocking start to today's ECB press conference, in the end the key policy signal was in line with our expectation." As was widely assumed, Mr Draghi attempted to tackle fears that the ECB would cut short or be unable to complete its QE scheme, which it has said runs until the end of September 2016.