From US to Europe, Wall Street protests go global

Last Updated: Sunday, October 16, 2011 - 21:56

New York: About 175 protesters who were part of a growing anti-Wall Street sentiment were arrested in Chicago early Sunday when they refused to take down their tents and leave a city park when it closed, police said, after a day of protests in cities around the world where thousands gathered to rally against what they see as corporate greed.

The arrests were mostly peaceful and came as somewhat of a contrast to many demonstrators elsewhere, who have taken care to follow laws in order to continue protesting Wall Street`s role in the financial crisis and other grievances. Most of the marches were largely nonconfrontational, though dozens were arrested in New York and elsewhere in the US when police moved to contain overflowing crowds or keep them off private property. Two officers in New York were injured and had to be hospitalized.

At least one protest grew violent. In Rome, rioters hijacked what had been a peaceful gathering and smashed windows, tore up sidewalks and torched vehicles. Repair costs were estimated at $1.4 million, the mayor said Sunday.

In Chicago, about 500 people had set up camp at the entrance to Grant Park on Saturday evening after a protest earlier in the day involving about 2,000, the Chicago Tribune reported. Police said they gave protesters repeated warnings after the park closed at 11 p.m. and began making arrests when they refused to leave.

Officers also asked protesters to take down their tents before beginning to cut them down to clear the area, police said. Protesters who were arrested would be released after background checks were done to make sure they didn`t have any outstanding arrest warrants, police said. They could face fines for violating a municipal ordinance.

In New York, two dozen were arrested Saturday when demonstrators entered a Citibank branch and refused to leave, police said. They asked the branch to close until the protesters could be taken away.

Earlier, as many as 1,000 demonstrators also paraded to a Chase bank branch, banging drums, blowing horns and carrying signs decrying corporate greed. A few went inside the bank to close their accounts, but the group didn`t stop other customers from getting inside or seek to blockade the business.

Lily Paulina of Brooklyn said she was taking her money out because she was upset that JPMorgan Chase was making billions of dollars, while its customers struggled with bank fees and home foreclosures.

"Chase bank is making tons of money off of everyone ... while people in the working class are fighting just to keep a living wage in their neighborhood," the 29-year-old United Auto Workers organizer said.

Police told the marchers to stay on the sidewalk, and the demonstration seemed fairly orderly as it wound through downtown streets.

The day culminated in an event in the city`s Times Square, where thousands of demonstrators mixed with gawkers, Broadway showgoers, tourists and police to create a chaotic scene in the midst of Manhattan.

"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" protesters chanted from within police barricades. Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, tried to push them out of the square and onto the sidewalks in an attempt to funnel the crowds away.

Sandra Fox, 69, of Baton Rouge, La., stood, confused, on 46th Street with a ticket for "Anything Goes" in her hand as riot police pushed a knot of about 200 shouting protesters toward her.

"It`s horrible what they`re doing," she said of the protesters. "These people need to go get jobs."

Sergio Jimenez, 25, said he quit his job in Texas to come to New York to protest. He participated in an anti-war march to mark the 10th anniversary of the Afghanistan War.

"These wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were all based on lies," Jimenez said. "And if we`re such an intelligent country, we should figure out other ways to respond to terror, instead of with terror."

Throughout the country — from several dozen people in Jackson, Miss., to some 2,000 each in Pittsburgh and Chicago — the protest gained momentum.

Nearly 1,500 gathered for a march past banks in downtown Orlando, Fla. Hundreds marched on a Key Bank branch in Anchorage and declared it should be foreclosed. In Arizona, reporters and protesters saw an estimated 40 people detained around midnight at a park in Phoenix.

In Colorado, about 1,000 people rallied in downtown Denver to support Occupy Wall Street and at least two dozen were arrested.

Rallies drew young and old, laborers and retirees. In Pittsburgh, marchers included parents with children in strollers. The peaceful crowd stretched for two or three blocks.

"I see our members losing jobs. People are angry," said Janet Hill, 49, who works for the United Steelworkers, which she said hosted a sign-making event before the march.

Retired teacher Albert Siemsen said at a demonstration in Milwaukee that he`d grown angry watching school funding get cut at the same time banks and corporations gained more influence in government. The 81-year-old wants to see tighter Wall Street regulation.

Around him, protesters held signs reading: "Keep your corporate hands off my government," and "Mr. Obama, Tear Down That Wall Street."

In Canada, demonstrators gathered in cities across the country, with hundreds of people protesting in the heart of Toronto`s financial district. Some protesters spent the night at parks in Toronto and other cities.

Overseas, tens of thousands nicknamed "the indignant" marched in cities across Europe, as the protests that began in New York linked up with long-running demonstrations against government cost-cutting and failed financial policies in Europe. Protesters also turned out in Australia and Asia.

Bureau Report

In Sydney, about 2,000 people, including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists, protested outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

Hundreds marched in Tokyo. Over 100 people gathered at the Taipei stock exchange, chanting "we are Taiwan`s 99 percent" and saying economic growth had only benefited companies while middle-class salaries barely covered basic costs.

In Hong Kong, home to the Asian headquarters of investment banks including Goldman Sachs, over 100 people gathered at Exchange Square in the Central district. Students joined with retirees, holding banners that called banks a cancer.

Portugal was the scene of the biggest reported protest action, with more than 20,000 marching in Lisbon and a similar number in the country`s second city Oporto, two days after the government announced a new batch of austerity measures.

Hundreds broke through a police cordon around the Parliament in Lisbon to occupy its broad marble staircase.

"This debt is not ours!" and "IMF, get out of here now!," demonstrators chanted. Banners read: "We are not merchandise in bankers` hands!" or "No more rescue loans for banks!"

Around 4,000 Greeks with banners bearing slogans like "Greece is not for sale" staged an anti-austerity rally in Athens` Syntagma Square, the scene of violent clashes between riot police and stone-throwing youths in June.

Many were furious at how austerity imposed by the government to reduce debt incurred by profligate spending and corruption had undermined the lives of ordinary Greeks.

In Paris, around 1,000 protesters rallied in front of city hall, coinciding with the G20 finance chiefs` meeting, after coming in from the working class neighbourhood of Belleville where drummers, trumpeters and a tuba revved up the crowd.

"This is potentially the start of a strong movement," said Olivier Milleron, a doctor whose group of trumpeters played the classic American folk song "This land is your land."

zee



First Published: Sunday, October 16, 2011 - 08:32

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