Around the world, the people took to the streets today.
By the tens of thousands, spanning the globe in over a thousand cities, including hundreds domestically, people marched and chanted and "occupied" a chunk of their local community in solidarity with the massive, and still growing, protest in New York City known as Occupy Wall Street. The people carried signs proclaiming a broad spectrum of positions, held megaphones and cellphones, and gathered in droves to discuss their reasons for marching. And while most of the global movement was peaceful and respectful, there was a significant number of arrests and occasional violent outbursts.
In New York, protesters left their enclave at Zuccotti Park and took up their occupation in Times Square, where an altercation at a Citi bank branch made headlines. A group of protesters, prepared to close their accounts and withdraw their funds, were arrested for disorderly conduct before they could complete their task. "'[The protesters] all went in a big flash mob to close their accounts,' said Adrielle Slaugh, a 24-year-old office manager who saw the clash. 'There were about 30 of them. They were screaming and chanting while they were going in. Security told them to leave, but they didn't. They stood in a group chanting things to the tellers. There were locked in, and then they were taken away.'" (NYPost)
Almost certain to be a public relations nightmare for the banking giant, and a point of motivation for the burgeoning #NoBankNovember event, there has been much confusion about the exact reasons for the arrests. However, regardless of the reality of the situation, the arrests have proven to be a point of identification for many who have yet to join the growing movement, and a point of vitriol for the bank, which was temporarily closed after the altercation.
Elsewhere in the world, in Madrid, Spain, tens of thousands gathered to express their frustrations, and the vista was breathtaking, with the Puerta del Sol filled with people chanting and shouting of their anger over government cutbacks to health and education spending, and a general displeasure with corporate greed and wealth distribution in the world economy. (Straits Times) Born prior to the Occupy movement, with the Spain protests originating over five months ago, the day was marked by a notable uptick in protesters that coincided with the global day of occupation.
In Italy, protesters erupted in violence, breaking the tradition of mostly peaceful gatherings. Connected with the "Indignant" movement originating in Spain, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched on Rome to voice their fury, many dressed in black, and a few began setting fires and smashing car windows. One such fire burned an annex of the Defense Ministry, it is alleged. Dozens of people were injured in the outburst, and the occupation continues to this hour. (Voice of America)
In Germany, a further tens of thousands of protesters swarmed Berlin, with estimates putting over five thousand people in a demonstration before the European Central Bank alone. The group, showing their connection with the Occupy movement, carried signs proclaiming to be a part of the "99%" (a common slogan of the Occupy Wall Street movement, representing the wealth disparity between the top 1% of the world economy, who domestically control over 40% of the wealth in America, and everyone else.) "'We rally to protest against the social disparity with very clear aim, to turn against the big banks' 52-year-old Mechthild Saxler said, adding that as people were getting poorer and poorer, while bank get even richer." (Xinhuanet)
In London, several thousand protesters joined those around Europe in protesting what they see as financial greed and political corruption, gathering in the city's financial district, outside St. Paul's Cathedral. According to authorities, several people have already been arrested, and the movement continues into the evening. Police have warned the group that camping in front of the cathedral would be illegal, but the protesters have assured that they intend to stay anyway. (BBC)
In the United States, protests spanned from the east coast to the west coast. In Boston, thousands continued to coincide with the massive gathering in New York, their occupation ongoing for several weeks now. The regular occupiers were today joined by a fresh influx of additional protesters, happy to be a part of a global movement. Still persisting with their encampment despite a series of arrests and clashes with authority in recent days, the reach and depth of the movement is being debated at even the highest ranks of academia and politics. Gary Gerstle, a Vanderbilt University historian, said the protest has "...the potential to change the fundamentals of American politics." (Boston.com)
Smaller, but still vocal and worthy of note, demonstrations were found in nearly every state in the nation. In Denver, Colorado, the occupation brought about several police confrontations from which the protesters did not back down, which the Denver Post captured flawlessly with an emotionally powerful photograph: The face-to-face meeting of a state trooper and a man he had known since childhood, inches apart and wracked with conflicting emotions.
In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, people marched in the streets and chanted slogans of anti-corporatocracy and anti-greed, demanding justice over a systemic failure of the banking system that the protesters blame for the ongoing economic crisis. At the feet of corruption on Wall Street and in Washington politics, the protesters demand change, and say that they will not leave until they see it. Photographer Rachel Michelle captured the gathering excellently for Littera Report and can be seen in vivid detail in the day's photo album.
There were also movements in Los Angeles, Spokane, Cincinnati, Washington DC, Miami, Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, and hundreds of cities and towns that stretch the distance between all of those major cities, far too many to cover in a single article. Arrests have been sporadic and minor, but significant enough to be noticed, and reports have come and gone about potential crackdowns, none of which have yet materialized. And there is little doubt that the movement is sparking confusion and intrigue amongst those passing by the massive and growing crowds, curious as to their purpose and intent, and there is little doubt that that is the goal of the protesters as they gather. Many have expressed the need to be heard, to have their concerns on global corruption and systemic greed aired in a venue that will have powerful and capable ears listening.
After a monumental, and decidedly worldwide day of occupation, they can be sure that those ears are, indeed, listening.