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Occupy Wall Street protests goes global; Obama extends support for protestors

Updated On: Oct 17, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been gathering steam over the past month, culminating with the global day of action yesterday.

Protesters opposed to economic inequality amassed on four continents over the weekend, camping out from Hong Kong to London, The protests worldwide were mostly peaceful apart from Rome, where the demonstration sparked riots, injuring more than 100 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.

Sydney, Toronto, Madrid 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 US 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.

In London, protesters – including Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – took part in ‘’Occupy London Stock Exchange (LSX),” a collective that had more than 15,000 fans on Facebook and some 5,000 confirmed attendees.

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.

In Singapore, less than 20 people turned up at Raffles Place yesterday for Singapore's version of the 'Occupy Wall Street' protests in New York.

Report: Buoyed by Wall St. Protests, Rallies Sweep the Globe  [The New York Times, 15 Oct 2011]

Report: Hundreds Arrested in Occupy Wall Street Protest Movement [VOA, 16 Oct 2011]

Reactions

US President, Barack Obama has extended his support for protestors. At a dedication to a new memorial on National Mall in Washington, President Obama honoured Martin Luther King and said “Dr King would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonising those who work there.” President Obama had previously said the protests “express the frustration” of ordinary Americans with the financial sector.

However, some bankers and others in the protesters’ sights sought to spread the blame. Andreas Schmitz, head of the German banking federation and chief executive of HSBC Trinkaus, stated that protests against banks were “a diversion from the fundamental problem: that we can no longer finance our welfare states”.

This sentiment was echoed elsewhere, “Protesters complained about banking excesses, but the demonstrations reflect more than simple anger at financial institutions, argued a banker in London. “It’s becoming apparent these are protests that aren’t just about banks; it’s all manner of things. . . They’re talking about the number of millionaires in the cabinet and all kinds of things – it doesn’t necessarily simply involve the banking sector.”

With the "Occupy Wall Street" movement going global and Middle East unrest stirring again, some fear the world faces a systemic rise in anger, protest and political volatility that could last years or even decades.

In many countries, a young social media-connected generation is losing faith in traditional structures of government and business, arguing it has been betrayed and denied opportunity.

In the developed world, the wider middle class fears its prosperity has evaporated, demanding someone be held accountable and the global elite find a way of delivering growth once more.

"This could be with us for a long time," said Jack Goldstone, professor of public policy at George Mason University in Washington DC and an expert in demographics.

It’s no surprise that Occupy Wall Street’s preferred methods for getting out its message are the social-networking powerhouses Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Social media appear to be helping fuel the protests, connecting like-minded groups world-wide, organizers and social-media experts said.

The outpouring of support through video, photos, text messages, audio and other messaging using Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other online services has also helped give the movement a sense of legitimacy.

Analysis: Is a winter of discontent on the way? [Reuters, 16 Oct 2011]

Report: Obama extends support for protesters [FT, 18 Oct 2011]

What next?

It is unclear what the next step for protesters will be.

In New York, where the month-long Occupy Wall Street movement has been a leading inspiration for protesters, dozens remained at their base in Zuccotti Park on Sunday. The group’s agenda listed only a committee meeting and the regular nightly assembly scheduled for the evening.

Paranoia is growing in some circles, too, with fears that the Democrats may try to co-opt the movement.

A report stated that Wall Street and hedge fund tycoon George Soros sent a signal to his minions and infiltrators when he stated that he sympathised with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Soros's statement dovetailed with David Plouffe, President Obama's Senior Adviser, making contact with certain newly-minted 'leaders' of the 'Occupy' movement across the US to ensure that they are as politically-manipulated by the White House as a vast majority of 'Tea Party' members have been manipulated by senior Republican Party officials and the billionaire Koch Brothers.

Chief campaign strategist for President Obama, David Axelrod said that Americans want a “financial system that works” and don’t want new banking rules overturned. “I don’t think any American is impressed when they see Governor Romney and all the Republican candidates say the first thing they’d do is roll back Wall Street reforms and go back to where we were before the crisis and let Wall Street write its own rules,” . He added.

It remains unclear if the month-old movement, grounded in a general discontent with the economic situation and corporations, can transform its energy into influence on politics and policy.

But one thing’s certain, the lack of focus has not stopped the growth of the movement.

Analysis: What now for Occupy Wall Street? [Al Jazeera, 10 Oct 2011]

Report: “Protests Show Americans want Fair Shake,” Axelrod Says [Bloomberg News, 16 Oct 2011]

Report: Spreading Protests Yet to Jell  [The Wall Street Journal, 17 Oct 2011]







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