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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wall Street protests go global

Hundreds of thousands gathered in cities across the world in protests against corporate greed and income equality, sparked by the month-old Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City.

While masked anarchists created chaos in the center of Rome, setting fire to cars and even a police vehicle on Saturday, protests were peaceful elsewhere — in Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Manila, Zurich, Lisbon, London, Frankfurt and Berlin.

The Rome demonstration alone drew an estimated 100,000, with Occupy Wall Street supporters trying to isolate the anarchists, who pushed into a protected archeological site. At least 70 people, including 30 police officers, were injured, according to an La7 broadcaster.

Coming in the wake of the Arab Spring protests across the Muslim world, unrest has been brewing for months in places like Greece and Spain over austerity measures and unemployment. On Saturday, Occupy Wall Street said it had expected a global turnout in 950 cities in 82 countries — a hallmark of coordination and rising anger against growing disparities in income across the world.

In Spain alone, hundreds of thousands turned out not just in Madrid but in Bilbao, Valencia, Mieres and Vallalodid — 80 cities in all. Tens of thousands converged on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square, where the protest movement known as 15-M (May 15) was initially launched months ago.

In Austria, more than 1,000 marched through Vienna’s busiest shopping street, with smaller protests around the country.

From Zurich to Santiago, Chile, many wore Guy Fawkes masks. “People not Profit” read a poster in Frankfurt, where 5,000 protesters gathered at the European Central Bank — an important lynchpin in Europe’s growing debt crisis.

In Berlin, 5,000 people marched on the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel, police estimates said. Anti-globalization groupt Attac claimed it had mustered 40,000 demonstrators.

In London, protesters — including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — took part in “Occupy London Stock Exchange (LSX),” a collective that had more than 15,000 fans on Facebook and some 5,000 confirmed attendees.

In a common worldwide theme, protesters insisted they represented the “99 percent” — a reference to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study that showed the upper 1 percent of Americans now take in nearly 25 percent of the nation’s income every year.

“In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent,” Stiglitz wrote in Vanity Fair magazine in May. “Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent.”

New York demonstrators, joined by labor unions, turned their anger on JPMorgan Chase&Co Saturday and urged a boycott, representative of anger at banks that accepted tens of billions of dollars in government bailout money in 2008. The banks have not only fired tens of thousands of workers to boost surging profits but also continued sitting on billions of dollars in assets while restricting the business loans needed to create new jobs.

“They got bailed out, we got sold out,” the crowd chanted.

By late afternoon in New York, protesters jammed Times Square to a standstill, pushing in waves against the massive tourist presence that inhabits the square around the clock.

“This is what democracy looks like,” the protesters chanted. “We are the 99 percent.” Tourists responded in kind, applauding.

In Washington, about 1,000 demonstrators demanded that Congress pass President Barack Obama’s jobs-stimulus bill. The Rev. Al Sharpton, the U.S. civil rights leader who helped organize the march, declared that if Congress doesn’t solve the crisis “in the suite,” then protesters would solve it “in the street.”

The group that grabbed broadcast headlines through Saturday, however, was the masked anarchist “black block” protesters in Rome, who set fire to cars on the central Via Cavour, causing gasoline tank explosions.

Tax office and defense ministry buildings were targeted with explosive devices and smoke bombs. One 60-year-old was reportedly injured in the face while trying to halt the radical left-wingers.

Italian police had a heavy presence, but for another reason: they had been anticipating violence after the Italian Parliament on Friday gave a confidence vote to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Italian central banker and future European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi expressed qualified solidarity with the protesters, saying: “Young people are right to be indignant … as long as their protests do not degenerate.”

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