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Occupy Wall Street Inspires Worldwide Protests

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
October 15, 2011

Taking a cue from the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, protesters across the world took to the streets Saturday to demonstrate against what they say is corporate greed, the banks and government austerity cuts.

Organizers of the global protests say there will be demonstrations in 951 cities in 82 countries. On their website, the organizers say they’re demanding change and to let politicians and the financial elite know it’s up to the people to decide the future.

The protests were largely peaceful, except in Rome, where there were running battles between black-hooded anarchists and the police. Dozens of people were reported injured.

At 11 a.m. hundreds of protestors left New York’s Zucotti Park, banging drums and chanting, “Banks got bailed out. We got sold out.”

They marched toward a Chase Bank building a few blocks away. A few protesters went inside the bank to close their accounts, but they didn’t stop other customers from getting inside or seek to block the business.

Police escorted the relatively polite crowd through Lower Manhattan for more than two hours. Donna Presnell, who carried a sign reading “There is enough for everyone,” said she hopes the Occupy Wall Street protests lead to big changes.

“If everybody pays their fair share — does their fair share — everybody contributes, then there’s more than enough for everybody on this planet,” said Presnell of New York City.

Small-business owner Sophie Rasmussen of Brooklyn said she’s angry that big banks won’t lend her and her husband money.

“I brought my kid because I want to demonstrate,” she said, as her daughter sat in a stroller eating carrots. “It’s not just young hippies who are here; it’s families, it’s serious people. We’re working and we’re studying and we’re wanting to do something.”

The marchers walked more than two miles. At around 1 p.m. they met up with a student-led protest at Washington Square Park near New York University.

In London, one of the financial capitals of the world, hundreds of people gathered on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, close to the financial district. They waved banners spelling out their message: “Bankers are the real looters”; “Beware, people are coming out of their comas.”

Speaking to the BBC, Naomi Colvin, an organizer of Occupy the London Stock Exchange, explained why she is protesting: “We are concerned about the role the financial services industry plays in this country and the relationship between the financial services industry and government.”

In Rome, however, a protest turned ugly, as a small group broke away from the main demonstration and wreaked havoc in streets close to the Colosseum.

Clad in black with their faces covered, protesters threw rocks, bottles and incendiary devices at banks and Rome police in riot gear. Some protesters had clubs, others had hammers. They destroyed bank ATMs, set trash bins on fire and assaulted at least two news crews from Sky Italia.

NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli reported huge explosions as police launched tear gas at the anarchists, who responded by throwing Molotov cocktails.

“It’s very said,” she reported, “because it was started as a very peaceful demonstration” with a lot of young people. Poggioli said the situation is terrible for young people in southern Europe, particularly in Italy, where there are few work prospects.

“They have a sense that they have no future, and that’s the heart of it,” she said. “There are a lot of young people who are out here demanding that their future be given back to them.”

In Toronto, hundreds of demonstrators converged near the Toronto Stock Exchange and the headquarters of some of Canada’s major banks to decry what they say is government-abetted corporate greed that has served the elites at the expense of the majority of people.

The Toronto demonstrators are marching to St. James Park in the east-central end of the city, where they plan to camp for at least the next few days.

Across the globe in Sydney, more than 500 demonstrators set up camp in Martin Place in the central business district.

“We’re not just talking about a change of government,” Josh Lees, one of the group’s organizers, said. “I think what everyone here is talking about is a change in the entire way our system works. Our entire way that money dominates all of our political lives, the big corporations — the 1 percent who we’re talking about — the mining companies, the banks and so on who dominate our entire political establishment, too. Both major parties in Australia are effectively just servants of capital, big money, and everything like that.”

NPR’s Jeff Brady reported from New York; Philip Reeves and Larry Miller reported from London; Stuart Cohen reported from Sydney; and Sylvia Poggioli reported from Rome for this story, which contains material from The Associated Press. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

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