Protesters opposed to economic inequality amassed on four continents over the weekend, camping out from Hong Kong to London, as a Rome rally turned violent and police in New York and Chicago arrested more than 250 people.
The Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that began last month in Lower Manhattan migrated uptown on Oct. 15, as about 6,000 people gathered in Times Square during what organizers called a “global day of action against Wall Street greed.” There were 92 arrests, according to the New York City Police Department. More than 100 people were injured in Rome, where as many as 200,000 amassed, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.
Chicago police arrested about 175 protesters in Grant Park around 1 a.m. local time yesterday after they refused to disperse, the Chicago Tribune reported. Eight were arrested in London a day earlier after demonstrators were barred from entering Paternoster Square, home to the London Stock Exchange. Six were charged, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
More than 250 people camped out overnight in the plaza in front of London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, organizers said, and 87 tents remained at midday yesterday. Banners attached to the tents included signs reading “People Before Profit” and “The People are Too Big to Fail,” while protesters made speeches from the steps of the cathedral using megaphones.
Demonstrators plan to stay “as long as it takes,” Spyro van Leemnen, a supporter of Occupy London Stock Exchange, said in a telephone interview. The cathedral is on the edge of the city’s financial district.
‘The 99 Percent’
Sydney, Toronto and other cities also saw protests in support of the month-old movement, which organizers say represents “the 99 percent,” a nod to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.
In Hong Kong, protests extended for a second day yesterday after about 40 demonstrators slept overnight in a foyer beneath the Asian headquarters of HSBC Holdings Plc in the central financial district.
Armed with tents, bullhorns and a gas-powered generator used to help them recharge their laptops, the protesters occupied the public thoroughfare under the building as about a dozen police stood by. Demonstrations were also held in Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo.
“Wall Street has a campaign to start asking questions about capitalism but this is not enough,” said art student Derrick Benig, 22, who slept in a tent overnight in Hong Kong. “I want to tear down capitalism.”
In Rome on Oct. 15, firecrackers were thrown at the Ministry of Defense and windows of Cassa di Risparmio di Rimini and Poste Italiane SpA shattered, Sky TG24 reported. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called “the unbelievable violence” in Rome “a worrying signal for civil coexistence.”
“Violent extremists have to be identified and punished,” Berlusconi said in a statement.
More than 800 people have been arrested in New York since the protests began Sept. 17, mostly for disorderly conduct, as demonstrators solidified their hold on Zuccotti Park, which has become the de facto epicenter of Occupy Wall Street.
A wider confrontation was avoided after the park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties Inc., postponed a cleanup that would have removed and banned protesters’ sleeping bags, tents and other gear that provided overnight accommodations.
Protesters and local politicians had gathered 300,000 signatures, flooded the city’s 311 information line and drew more than 3,000 people to the park to oppose the cleanup, according to Patrick Bruner, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman.
“The world will rise up as one and say, ‘We have had enough,’” Bruner said in an e-mail. A news release from the organization said there were demonstrations in 1,500 cities worldwide, including 100 in the United States.
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