Thursday 23 November 2017

'Occupy' protests at financial crisis go worldwide

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Athens, Berlin, Rome and London. Protests against alleged corporate greed and government cutbacks have been held in cities around the world. Columns of black smoke rose over central Rome on Saturday as one of the largest global protests against the financial system turned violent.

'Occupy' protests at financial crisis go worldwide

Clashes erupted at the biggest rally, in Rome, when riot police intervened after a small group of masked militants attacked property.

Police used tear gas and water, and baton-charged the crowd.

Inspired by the Occupy Wall St movement and Spain's "Indignants", demonstrators turned out from Asia to Europe, but numbers were generally small.

Organisers expect rallies in 82 countries, with the protests due to come full circle when they reach New York.

Organisers said on their website that the aim was to "initiate the global change we want".

"United in one voice, we will let politicians, and the financial elites they serve, know it is up to us, the people, to decide our future," it said.

Slogans painted in the Spanish capital Madrid were full of anger at politicians accused of serving the banks, not the people, and frustration over an economic crisis which has hit poor people and the young very hard, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford reports.

Masked militants

Tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate peacefully in Rome, the BBC's David Willey.

Television pictures from the city showed streets packed with protesters waving banners, close to the Colosseum.

However militants dressed in black inflitrated the crowd and began attacking property. Offices belonging to the Italian defence ministry were set on fire, three cars were burnt and there were attacks on cash dispensers and bank and shop windows.

Police moved in after bottles were reportedly thrown at them.

The militants were also challenged by other protesters, our correspondent says.

There was a message of support for the global day of protest from the chief of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi, who is set to take over as head of the European Central Bank (ECB) next month.

"Young people are right to be indignant," he was quoted by Italian media as saying in informal comments at the G20 summit in Paris.

"They're angry against the world of finance. I understand them... We adults are angry about the crisis. Can you imagine people who are in their twenties or thirties?"

Outside the ECB itself in Frankfurt, Germany, hundreds of people gathered to protest on Saturday.

 

Evening rally

At least 1,000 people demonstrated in London's financial district but were prevented by police from reaching the Stock Exchange.

In Dublin, about 400 people marched to a hotel where an EU/IMF/ECB delegation involved in the country's ongoing financial bailout is staying, the Irish Times reports.

Madrid, where protests over the global crisis first began in May when hundreds took over the city's Puerta del Sol square, is to see its main demonstrations on Saturday evening, with all-night events planned.

Most of Saturday's rallies have been small, with traffic barely disrupted.

Hundreds of people marched in New Zealand cities while in Sydney, Australia, some 2,000 people - including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists - rallied outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

"Occupy" protests were also been held in South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

It remains to be seen if any of the demonstrations turn into protest camps, such as Occupy Wall Street, which began with a small group of activists in New York's financial district a couple of months ago and has now grown to include several thousand people at times, from many walks of life.

Observers say that, while the original protesters in Spain had concrete demands such as seeking a cut in working hours to tackle unemployment, many "Occupy" protesters are vague in their demands.

 

Violence in Rome

 

Columns of black smoke rose over central Rome on Saturday as one of the largest global protests against the financial system turned violent.

While finance ministers from the G20 met in Paris to discus the eurozone crisis and thousands of people joined anti-capitalist demonstrations around the world, hooded militants infiltrated an otherwise peaceful demonstration in Rome, setting fire to cars and attacking a bank and shops.

Italian riot police were out in force and helicopters flew above the demonstrators. Witnesses said a group of about 30 or 40 men torched one or two cars along the main route of the march, smashed the windows of a branch of Cassa di Ripsarmio di Rimini, attacked a supermarket and torched Italian and European Union flags flying outside a hotel.

The militants appeared to belong to a violent movement called the black bloc – fringe groups of far-left and anarchists militants – who caused mayhem in central Rome last December when they infiltrated a peaceful protest by students against government cuts in education.

Many Italians among the thousands joining Saturday’s march, which was heading towards Piazza San Giovanni, deplored the violence, with some taking shelter in hotels and bars along the route.


“At the global level, we can’t carry on any more with public debt that wasn’t created by us but by thieving governments, corrupt banks and speculators who don’t give a damn about us,” said Nicla Crippa, 49, who wore a T-shirt saying “enough” as she arrived at the Rome protest.

“They caused this international crisis and are still profiting from it, they should pay for it,” she said.

The “global day of protest” on Saturday began in Australia and the Far East, with some 2,000 people taking to the streets outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

The movement then rippled around the world as midday struck in the Middle East and then Europe, with protests in capitals including Frankfurt and London.

In London, more than 1000 protesters occupied the steps of St Paul's Cathedral after Police stopped them marching into Paternoster Square, home of the Stock Exchange and Goldman Sachs’ investment management business.

“We are angry and frustrated about how the system is treating us, the 99 per cent,” said Robert Sanches, an activist who was involved a scuffle with the police as he tried to enter the square.

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks told the crowd the organisation would target tax evasion – a target of the UK Uncut movement – and financial institutions in the coming months. He said Saturday’s protest was “not about the destruction of law, it’s about the construction of law.”

Marches had been planned for Saturday in at least 868 cities in 78 countries. Organisers say they are broadly in favour of greater democracy in global financial and political systems.

“Undemocratic international institutions are our global Mubarak, our global Assad, our global Gaddafi,” said a statement from Egality, an activist group that is helping co-ordinate the global protests.

Shimri Zameret, a co-ordinator for Egality, said that events such as the Arab spring, the student-led protest movement in Chile and Spain’s indignados, or outraged, who have been demonstrating against joblessness and austerity measures, were all part of the same global movement demanding greater democracy and fairness.

The inspiration for Saturday’s protests is the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, which began in New York last month with the occupation of Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, but has since spread to cities including Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco.

Occupy LSX, which organised the London march said it wanted: “a future free from austerity, growing inequality, unemployment, tax injustice and a political elite who ignores its citizens”.

Organisers say the London protest will adopt the same format as the US occupations and will attempt to remain on the steps of St Pauls as long as possible. The protesters have split into working groups to discuss “matters that are concerning them”. They are discussing issues including the Tobin Tax, the debt crisis in Europe, the bail out of the banks and the public spending cuts in the UK. Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks made a short speech at the event.

New Zealand and Australia got the ball rolling on Saturday. Several hundred people marched up the main street in Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, joining a rally at which 3,000 chanted and banged drums, denouncing corporate greed, Reuters reported.

In Sydney, about 2,000 people protested outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

“I think people want real democracy,” said Nick Carson, a spokesman for OccupyMelbourne. Org. “They don’t want corporate influence over their politicians. They want their politicians to be accountable.”

 

Hundreds marched in Tokyo, including anti-nuclear protesters.

More than 100 people gathered at the Taipei stock exchange, chanting “we are Taiwan’s 99 per cent”, and saying economic growth had only benefited companies while middle-class salaries barely covered soaring housing, education and healthcare costs.

They found support from a top businessman, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp Chairman Morris Chang.

“I’ve been against the gap between rich and poor,” Chang said in the northern city of Hsinchu. “The wealth of the top one per cent has increased very fast in the past 20 or 30 years. ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is a reaction to that.”