Hundreds of thousands gathered in cities around 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. Protesters also took to the streets in cities across the U.S., including in Seattle, where an estimated 3,000 people filled Westlake Park.
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.
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 launched months ago.
In Austria, more than 1,000 marched through Vienna’s busiest shopping street, with smaller protests around the country.
“People not Profit” read a poster in Frankfurt, where 5,000 protesters gathered at the European Central Bank – an important linchpin in Europe’s growing debt crisis.
In Berlin, 5,000 people marched on the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel, police estimates said. Anti-globalization group Attac claimed it had mustered 40,000 demonstrators.
In London, protesters took part in “Occupy London Stock Exchange (LSX),” which had 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 take in nearly 25 percent of the nation’s income yearly.
“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.”
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