Global demonstrations against financial institutions and government cutbacks saw hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets in the world’s major cities Saturday. The protests were inspired by the 'Occupy Wall Street' movement in the U.S.
AFP - Protesters torched cars, smashed up banks and set fire to a military building in Rome in the worst violence of worldwide demonstrations against corporate greed and government cutbacks.
Tens of thousands took to the streets of the Italian capital for a march that turned violent and equal numbers rallied in Madrid and Lisbon, while Wikileaks founder Julian Assange joined angry demonstrators in London.
The protests were inspired by the "Occupy Wall Street" movement in the United States and the "Indignants" in Spain, targeting 951 cities in 82 countries across the planet in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.
It was the biggest show of power yet by a movement born on May 15 when a rally in Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square sparked a worldwide movement that focused anger over unemployment and opposition to the financial elite.
"I think it is very moving that the movement that was born here has extended throughout the world. It was about time for people to rise up," said 24-year-old Carmen Martin as she marched towards Puerta del Sol.
In the Portuguese capital, where some 50,000 rallied, Mathieu Rego, 25, said: "We are victims of financial speculation and this austerity programme is going to ruin us. We have to change this rotten system."
The protests received unexpected support from Italian central bank governor Mario Draghi, a former executive at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs set to take over as president of the European Central Bank.
"They're angry against the world of finance. I understand them," he added, though expressing regrets at reports of violence.
More protests were staged in Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Geneva, Paris, Sarajevo and Zurich. Thousands also rallied across Canada and in New York and Washington.
Scuffles broke out in London, where about 800 people gathered in the financial district by St Paul's Cathedral, raising banners saying: "Strike back!" "No cuts!" and "Goldman Sachs is the work of the devil!"
Five people were arrested, three for assaulting police officers and two for public order offences, Scotland Yard said.
Three lines of police, and one line at the rear on horseback, blocked them from heading to the London Stock Exchange and pushed back against lead marchers, some wearing masks.
"One of the reasons why we support what is happening here in 'Occupy London' is because the banking system in London is the recipient of corrupt money," Assange said from the steps of St Paul's, flanked by bodyguards.
Nearly 100 protesters were arrested as thousands marched in New York. Police on horseback clashed with protesters in busy Times Square in the evening, and one woman was injured.
In Miami, a city that rarely hosts mass demonstrations, at least 1,000 people marched downtown. The crowd included youth and retirees standing up against corporations, banks and war.
Over 10,000 Canadians blew bubbles, strummed guitars and chanted anti-corporate slogans at peaceful protests in cities across the country.
"I believe a revolution is happening," said 30-year-old Annabell Chapa, who brought her one-year-old son Jaydn along in a stroller to Toronto's Saint James Park.
In Mexico, Peru and Chile, thousands marched to protest what they slammed as an unfair financial system and stagnant unemployment.
The European Union also became a target for anger as the eurozone debt crisis continues, with some 9,000 protesters marching to the EU's headquarters in Brussels and rallying outside the ECB's headquarters in Frankfurt.
In Rome, the march quickly degenerated into running street battles between groups of hooded protesters and riot police who fired tear gas and water jets into the crowd amid a security lockdown in the Italian capital.
"Today is only the beginning. We hope to move forward with a global movement. There are many of us and we want the same things," said protester Andrea Muraro, a 24-year-old engineering student from Padua.
"Only One Solution: Revolution!" read a placard. One group carried a cardboard coffin with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's name on it.
Berlusconi later condemned the "incredible level of violence" at the march.
"We've seen the worst of Europe today in Rome," Mayor Gianni Alemanno said.
Seventy people were injured in the clashes and treated by medics, including three in a serious condition, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Backing from Italy's main trade unions and student movements boosted the numbers at the protest in Rome -- in contrast to most of the other rallies.
As the day began, around 500 people gathered in the heart of Hong Kong's financial district to vent their anger. About 100 demonstrators in Tokyo also voiced fury at the Fukushima nuclear accident.
Another 600 demonstrators in Sydney set up camp outside Australia's central bank, where the plight of refugees and Aboriginal Australians was added to the financial concerns.
PARIS TAKES ON 'UNITED FOR GLOBAL CHANGE' DAY
World champions in demonstrating, the French didn’t miss their chance on Saturday, when “indignant” movements around the world gathered to voice their anger over “greedy fat cats” and the “ruinous” capitalist system. All photos © Sophie Pilgrim/ FRANCE 24.
This man is bravely divulging his monthly salary, which, as he points out, works out at 13 euro centimes per minute (around 11 pence GBP or 18 cents USD). ©SP/ F24.
The procession made a stop outside French bank BNP Paribas – Europe’s biggest – to denounce its “gluttonous” practices. One of the protesters listens to organisers lambasting the bank in front of its ubiquitous four-star logo. ©SP/ F24.
When a group of young Communist supporters were told they’d have to join the back of the parade because their flags were obstructive, they booed and chanted “We are ALL indignant” at the organisers. ©SP/ F24.
Sylviane is a regular at demonstrations. She uses the metro air vents in the pavement, running from one to another along the march trail, to create some kind of security tape art form. It certainly attracts attention. ©SP/ F24.
“Peace, justice, now!” Another protester ruining the view of Paris’s famous Opéra from the BNP Paribas offices. ©SP/ F24.
A young accordionist and his impressive glasses join the parade. The younger demonstrators were surprisingly chic for political activists. ©SP/ F24.
“We’re the 99% - Occupy France,” reads the poster on the right, referring to the outstanding 1% of people who own most of the wealth in France. On the left: “You have the right to remain silent and let their money speak for you.” ©SP/ F24.
When a pair of designer-clad men approached the protesters shouting “traitors” and “long live President Sarkozy”, they were politely told to pipe down. ©SP/ F24.
Communist flags shadow France’s Bourse, or stock exchange, which was described as “the temple of capitalism”. “Bravo!” One megaphone-equipped participant shouted towards the historic building. “You’ve made loads of money… But look what you’ve done with it!” ©SP/ F24.
The word solidarity reached new levels of popularity at the march. “Greece, Spain, all indignant, all for solidarity,” reads this banner. ©SP/ F24.
One of the organisers holds up a banner reading “austerity, tax, let’s not get ourselves fleeced by finance”. The fat cat is saying “Who pays my debts makes me rich”. ©SP/ F24.
Date created : 2011-10-16