Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Wall Street protests stepped up around the world


Protests against corporate greed and cutbacks have stepped up across America as protesters in London inspired by the "Occupy Wall Street" movement continued their demonstration through the night.

Thousands of anti-capitalist protesters returned to New York's Times Square on Saturday, buoyed by a global day of demonstrations in support of their month-long campaign against corporate greed. 

In Chicago, more than 2,000 people marched from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago to Grant Park before setting up tents. Police said they arrested more than 200 protesters who refused to leave this morning. 

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been gathering steam over the past month, culminating with the global day of action yesterday. 

Inspired by the grass-roots movement and Spain's "Indignants", protests started in Asia and Europe and rippled around to the US and Canada. The protests worldwide were mostly peaceful apart from Rome, where the demonstration sparked riots. 

Protesters in London were continuing their demonstration through the night after thousands descended on the area around the London Stock Exchange yesterday. As night fell protesters had pitched tents at the foot of the steps of St Paul's Cathedral after police cordoned off Paternoster Square, where the Stock Exchange is located.

Scotland Yard had said it would be "illegal and disrespectful" to camp in front of the cathedral, but a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police later said: "We are not going to move anyone at this time." The force said it had made efforts to ensure yesterday's protest was largely peaceful. 

Five arrests were made throughout the day - three for assault on police and two for public order offences. A spokesman for the protesters said the demonstration was to "challenge the bankers and the financial institutions which recklessly gambled our economy.
 "This occupation and 20 other occupations all around the UK have been directly inspired by what's happening all across America and especially Wall Street," he added.

Mr Van Leemnen, who said he works in public relations, described the protest as the "initial stage of the movement to start a dialogue" and said it was about "democratising the financial system".

He added: "We're going to stay until the morning and the next day and the day after - as long as it takes until the Government hears our voice and says they are going to change things." He foresaw no problems for when worshippers begin arriving in the morning, adding: "

This is a peaceful movement. I'm sure the people who go to the cathedral won't be up for a fight." A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the protest had been "largely calm and orderly", but urged protesters to leave the area around the cathedral. However, Occupy London Stock Exchange supporter Anna Jones claimed "a disproportionate amount of force" was used by police against protesters outside St Paul's.

She said: "We have seen people, kettled, grabbed and thrown off the steps forcefully by the police. This was entirely unnecessary. None came here to have a fight with the police." Earlier, police began removing protesters from the cathedral steps, leading to physical confrontations, and officers expressed concerns about the cathedral's pillars being damaged by people sitting on its steps.

A Met spokesman said a "containment" was carried out in the churchyard "prevent a breach of the peace". Well-known activists including Julian Assange and Peter Tatchell were among the protesters in London yesterday.

Mr Assange, creator of the WikiLeaks website, addressed the crowds on the steps of St Paul's. A spokeswoman for the protesters said he had been challenged by police for wearing a mask as he walked to the protest. She said: "As I understand it, Julian initially refused to take the mask off. Police detained him for 15 minutes before letting him go. "He then gave a speech in which he talked about WikiLeaks, police oppression and the current economic situation."

Activists carried banners with slogans such as "We are the 99%" and "Bankers got a bailout, we got sold out". Among them was Lorena Fuentes, 27, a charity worker originally from Vancouver, Canada.

She said: "I'm here today because I can't see why you wouldn't be and I feel that this is one of the few moments in history where it's not a protest, it's an actual movement that's taken root. "We're trying to challenge this myth that there are not enough resources to go around."

Protests also took place on the streets of Edinburgh and Dublin, which passed off peacefully. More than 100 demonstrators turned out to protest in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, while hundreds also took to the streets of Dublin.

In Italy however, police fired tear gas and water cannons as protesters turned the demonstration against corporate greed into a riot, smashing shop and bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles. Police in riot gear charged the protesters and fired water cannons at them. Several police officers and protesters were injured, including one man trying to stop protesters from throwing bottles.

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