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Thousands protest banks, corporate greed in US, UK & European marches

Reuters
 
  • A baby boomer couple marches with Occupy Los Angeles protesters in the Protest Against Corporate Greed on their International Day of Action in Los Angeles
  • A baby boomer couple marches with Occupy Los Angeles protesters in the Protest Against …

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Thousands of anti-Wall Street protesters rallied in New York’s Times Square on Saturday, buoyed by a global day of demonstrations in support of their month long campaign against corporate greed.

Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, protests on Saturday started in Asia and rippled through Europe back to the United States and Canada. Protesters fed up with economic inequality took to the streets in cities from Washington, Boston and Chicago to Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto.

After weeks of intense media coverage, the size of the U.S. protests on Saturday have been smaller than G20 meetings or political conventions have yielded in recent years. Such events often draw tens of thousands of demonstrators.

In New York, where the movement began when protesters set up camp in a Lower Manhattan park on September 17, organizers said the protest grew to at least 5,000 people as they marched to Times Square from their makeshift outdoor headquarters.

“These protests are already making a difference,” said Jordan Smith, 25, a former substance abuse counsellor from San Francisco, who joined the New York protest. “The dialogue is now happening all over the world.”

The protesters chanted, “We got sold out, banks got bailed out” and “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street.” They arrived in Times Square at a time when the area is already crowded with tourists and Broadway theatregoers.

“This is disgusting” said Anatoly Lapushner, who was shopping with his family at Toys R Us in Times Square. “Why aren’t they marching on Washington and the politicians? Instead they go after the economic lifeblood of the city.”

PARTY MOOD IN NEW YORK

American protesters are angry that U.S. banks are enjoying booming profits after getting bailouts in 2008, while many people are struggling in a difficult economy with more than 9 percent unemployment and little help from Washington.

Some were disappointed the New York crowd was not larger.

“People don’t want to get involved. They’d rather watch on TV,” said Troy Simmons, 47, who joined demonstrators as he left work. “The protesters could have done better today … people from the whole region should be here and it didn’t happen.”

The Times Square mood was akin to New Year’s Eve, when the famed “ball drop” occurs. In a festive mood, protesters were joined by throngs of tourists snapping pictures, together counting back from 10 and shouting, “Happy New Year.”

Police said three people were arrested in Times Square after pushing down police barriers and five men were arrested earlier for wearing masks. Police also arrested 24 people at a Citibank branch in Manhattan, mostly for trespassing.

Citibank was not immediately available for comment.

Five thousand people marched through the streets of Los Angeles and gathered peacefully outside City Hall.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been gathering steam over the past month, culminating with Saturday’s action. The protests worldwide were mostly peaceful apart from Rome, where the demonstration sparked riots.

But it was unclear if the movement, which has been driven using social media, would sustain momentum beyond Saturday. Critics have accused the group of not having clear goals.

In Toronto, a couple of thousand people gathered peacefully and started to set up a camp in one of the city’s parks. Protesters in Washington marched through the streets.

“I am going to start my life as an adult in debt and that’s not fair,” student Nathaniel Brown told Reuters Television. “Millions of teenagers across the country are going to start their futures in debt, while all of these corporations are getting money fed all the time and none of us can get any.”

Police told to move along as anti-bank protesters camp out at St Paul’s

Occupy London protesters set for long haul outside cathedral as global action against financial institutions gains momentum

Occupy London camp in front of St Paul’s Cathedral

Occupy London camp in front of St Paul’s Cathedral in the city of London. Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP

In their stand against mammon, protesters occupying St Paul’s churchyard to vent anger at reckless bankers found heartwarming support emanating from the house of God.

Far from requesting that the 300-strong crowd be removed from the cathedral steps on Sunday , the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s, requested that the police themselves move on as the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest entered its second day.

A line of officers had taken up position at the top of the steps to “protect” the building. “Which was very good of them,” explained the canon. But then he had asked them if they would leave, “because I didn’t feel that it needed that sort of protection”.

And so those attending Sunday mass found themselves picking a path through the makeshift camp of around 100 tents erected at the foot of the cathedral’s steps after Saturday’s global day of action inspired by the US’s Occupy Wall Street movement.

With the sermon of the day appropriately including a gospel reading about “God and money”, the regular congregation was joined by some of the protesters. The canon had warned them the cathedral bells were “really loud”, so it was an early start to their first full day of occupation.

An attempt on Saturday to set up camp outside the London Stock Exchange in nearby privately-owned Paternoster Square had been thwarted by police. But all the indications on Sunday were that a hard core of dedicated protesters were digging in for the long haul at St Paul’s.

A field kitchen was being erected, offering basics donated by wellwishers. A first aid point was set up in front of a poster renaming the area as Tahrir Square. A media area, powered by a generator, was aiming to stream activities from the camp live on to the internet. A line of seven portable toilets had also been installed. “Pick up your litter” was one of the continual announcements over the camp’s megaphone.

A spokesman said the purpose of the occupation was “to challenge the bankers and the financial institutions which recklessly gambled with the economy. This and 20 other occupations all around the UK have been directly inspired by what’s happening all across America and especially in Wall Street.”

Roy Alexander, 39, from Surrey, said: “We’re planning to stay here indefinitely, we’ll stay here and make a stand. I think we’ll have more people join.”

The protest indeed appeared to have struck a chord with many who were new to demonstrating. “I’m 40. Never been on a protest before. But I found myself here,” said one man, who asked not to be named, from Sheffield. “I’m pretty middle of the road politically, so I wasn’t sure about all the Socialist Workers placards at first. But this issue has attracted people from all walks of life. I’m a diehard atheist – there’s a woman over there with a ‘Jesus is Calling’ placard. It’s all of us.”

Another on his first protest was Ollie Taylor, 23, from Aldershot. “I feel really, really strongly about this issue. I really think it is going to snowball.” He, like many others, was having to leave the protest to return to his job, working in a photographic studio. But many pledged to return.

Police appeared relaxed, keeping a visible but low-key presence, and chatting and mingling with protesters. It was a different situation on Saturday, when an estimated 3,000-4,000 protesters converged on the cathedral. Supporters claimed a disproportionate amount of force was used and people were “kettled, grabbed and thrown off the steps forcefully”.

The Metropolitan police said some “containment” had been in place to prevent a breach of the peace. Eight people were arrested, of whom six were charged with offences including affray and cannabis possession.

How long the camp will be allowed to stay remains to be seen. Asked about the impact it would have on businesses in the area, one shop supervisor said: “I can’t imagine the shops in Paternoster Square are too happy about it – they haven’t been able to open since yesterday.”

As for the cathedral’s blessing, the canon stressed that while he had not given specific backing to the occupation of St Paul’s churchyard, he supported the democratic right to protest peacefully. “It’s cold, isn’t it going to be cold tonight?” he said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’re taking one day at a time and it’s really good it’s all worked out well for us today.

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