Saturday, October 15, 2011

Buoyed by Wall St. Protests, Rallies Sweep the Globe


Buoyed by the longevity of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Manhattan, a wave of protests swept across Asia, the Americas and Europe on Saturday, with hundreds and in some cases thousands of people expressing discontent with the economic tides in marches, rallies and occasional clashes with the police.

In Rome, a rally thick with tension spread over several miles. Small groups of restive young people turned a largely peaceful protest into a riot, setting fire to at least one building and a police van and clashing with police officers, who responded with water cannons and tear gas. The police estimated that dozens of protesters had been injured, along with 26 law enforcement officials; 12 people were arrested.

At least 74 people were arrested in New York, including 24 accused of trespassing in a Greenwich Village branch of Citibank and 45 during a raucous rally of thousands of people in and around Times Square. More than 1,000 people filled Washington Square Park at night, but almost all of them left after dozens of police officers with batons and helmets streamed through the arch and warned that they would be enforcing a midnight curfew.

Other than Rome’s, the demonstrations across Europe were largely peaceful, with thousands of people marching past ancient monuments and gathering in front of capitalist symbols like the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Similar scenes unfolded across cities on several continents, including in Sydney, Australia; Tokyo; Hong Kong; Toronto; Chicago; and Los Angeles, where several thousand people marched to City Hall as passing drivers honked their support.

But just as the rallies in New York have represented a variety of messages — signs have been held in opposition to President Obama yards away from signs in support of him — so did Saturday’s protests contain a grab bag of sentiments, opposing nuclear power, political corruption and the privatization of water.

Yet despite the difference in language, landscape and scale, the protests were united in frustration with the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

“I have no problem with capitalism,” Herbert Haberl, 51, said in Berlin. “But I find the way the financial system is functioning deeply unethical . We shouldn’t bail out the banks. We should bail out the people.”............

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