The Occupy Wall Street protesters have spent the past four weeks trying to make their voices heard. On Saturday, hundreds of thousands around the world responded.
Frustrated people the world over took to the streets to show solidarity with both the indignado movement in Spain and the occupations in the U.S. in what was called a “global day of protest”. Scheduled for Oct. 15 to coincide with a G20 meeting in Paris of ministers and bankers, the demonstrations took place in hundreds of cities including Hong Kong, London, Rome, Frankfurt, Toronto and Sydney, with hundreds – in some cases, thousands – of people turning up to protest economic disparity.
Madrid, home of the indignado movement, saw one of the largest protests as the city’s Puerta del Sol square overflowed with upwards of 60,000 people demonstrating against the country’s financial woes. Despite the anger and massive turnout, Madrid’s occupation remained calm, as protesters expressed themselves with chanting, cheering and a rendition of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”
Across Asia and Canada, where the economic downturn has been far less critical than in other regions, smaller gatherings were staged. Nonetheless, protestors still maintained the movements’ common threads of anti-capitalism anger and a mixed bag of demands.
While the demonstrations have been, for the most part, peaceful, there were some rogue outbreaks of violence. Tens of thousands of people showed up for what began as a placid affair in Rome, which turned sour when a small group of youths began rioting: breaking windows, overturning cars, setting fires and assaulting news crews. The police responded with tear gas and water cannons. Despite the protest getting out of control, even city officials were quick to point out that the majority of people had stayed calm. “I was very impressed by the reaction of the majority of the protesters,” the city’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, said the next day. “Never before have there been cheers when the police intervened.”
(MORE: How Rome’s Protest Was Hijacked)
The police weren’t as welcome in London, however, as some 2,000 protestors occupied the square around St. Paul’s Cathedral near the London Stock Exchange. Though the demonstration was relatively calm, hundreds of police officers were present and accusations spread over Twitter that some were using unnecessary force. Still, only seven people were arrested Saturday – for assaults on officers and disturbing the peace – and no one was forced to evacuate the area. In fact, Monday morning saw more than 200 protestors still camped out and occupying the area.
Meanwhile, in New York City and Chicago, more than 250 people had been arrested by early Sunday morning, with three police officers in New York injured and sent to the hospital. In New York, where the occupation has just reached the 30-day mark, protesters moved from Zuccotti Park to Washington Square Park then onto Times Square, with chants of, “We are the 99 percent” ringing along the way. In Chicago, about 175 protestors were arrested after they refused to leave occupied Grant Park for the 11 p.m. curfew.
Despite the arrests, however, the global response to the movement is likely to only buoy the protesters’ determination even more. The Occupy Wall Street movement has already received widespread support in polls and from prominent endorsements: Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Salman Rushdie and Julian Assange have all praised those continuing the struggle against capitalism. Thanks to Saturday’s “day of global protest,” the Wall Street protestors now also know they have the world behind them.
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