Demonstrators rallied yesterday across the world to accuse bankers and politicians of wrecking economies, but only in Rome did the global "day of rage" erupt into violence. In Israel, thousands demonstrated in the Tel Aviv Museum quadrangle, bearing signs saying "United for global change." Smaller demonstrations took place in Haifa, Jerusalem and Kiryat Shmona.
"There was no organized movement, just a lot of people who decided to do something for democracy," the local October 15 movement's unofficial spokesman David Nachman told TheMarker.
Galvanized by the U.S. Occupy Wall Street movement, protests against economic inequality began in New Zealand, and rippled east to Europe, Asia and the South Seas. Demonstrations against the social and economic order of today's society touched most European capitals and other cities, all in all affecting about 800 cities in 70 nations.
The planetwide protests coincided with the Group of 20 meeting in Paris, where finance ministers and central bankers from the major economies were holding crisis talks.
In London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed thousands of demonstrators and called on them to demand information on overseas bank accounts be disclosed to the public.
While most rallies were small and barely held up traffic, the Rome event drew tens of thousands of people and snaked through the city center for kilometers. Protesters in masks and helmets set fire to cars, smashing windows of stores and banks, and trashing the Defense Ministry offices. Italian police fired water cannons at demonstrators who were hurling rocks, bottles and fireworks.
Marching in Israel
The event in Tel Aviv was preceded by marches originating from tent protest encampments throughout Israel. The marchers set out on Thursday and intend to reach Jerusalem by October 19, where a demonstration is planned outside the Knesset as parliament returns from its summer break.
In contrast to the demonstrations in recent weeks against the cost of living, in Israel last night there was no stage or pop stars. There was group yoga and "revolutionary activities" for children, picnic areas and musical jam sessions, as well as roundtable discussions among the participants.
The events in Israel were loosely organized by several dozen volunteers helping with logistics and contact with the press. "We decided to put together an event locally to connect Israel with the world," said Nachman.
"We don't have an organized movement," he said. "There is no institution organizing or paying for these things, just a lot of people in a lot of countries who decided to do something to strengthen democracy and change the socioeconomic system. Private people brought their own equipment: slide projectors, screens."
Small, peaceful rallies got the ball rolling across the Asia-Pacific region yesterday. In Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, 3,000 people chanted and banged drums, denouncing corporate greed.
In Sydney, Australia, about 2,000 people - including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists - protested outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.
Hundreds marched in Tokyo, including anti-nuclear protesters. In Manila, a few dozen marched on the U.S. embassy, waving banners reading "Down with U.S. imperialism" and "Philippines not for sale."
More than 100 people gathered at the Taipei Stock Exchange, chanting "We are Taiwan's 99%" and saying economic growth had only benefited companies while middle-class salaries barely covered soaring housing, education and health care costs.
They found support from a top businessman, Morris Chang, chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (TSMC). "I've been against the gap between rich and poor," Chang said in the northern city of Hsinchu. "The wealth of the top one percent has increased very fast in the past 20 or 30 years. Occupy Wall Street is a reaction to that."
In Paris, protests coincided with the G20 finance chiefs' meeting there. In the working class neighborhood of Belleville, drummers, trumpeters and a tuba-player revved up a crowd of a few hundred that began to march to the city hall.
Marching under a block-long banner reading "Generation Revolution" and wearing T-shirts emblazoned with "We are the 99%" and "Occupy Paris," the mostly-young crowd chanted "Rise up people!" and "Open your eyes! Get angry!" before quietly sitting down on the ground in the square in front of City Hall and launching a well-organized debate about the movement's goals.
"Let's begin with choosing moderators for the discussion," a volunteer with a bullhorn suggested. "And who would like to propose topics for debate?" Ideas were thrown out and lists were written up on billboards.
"This is potentially the start of a strong movement," said Olivier Milleron, a doctor whose group of trumpeters played the classic American folk song "This Land is your Land."
"I came here with my boyfriend, because it's fun to hang out together, but also because I think we can make a change," shrugs Wippy Lejoif, a 21-year-old dual Thai-French national carrying a flag reading "Capitalism has had its moment - revolt!"
"The indignant ones"
The Rome protesters, who called themselves "the indignant ones," included the unemployed, students and pensioners. "I am here to show support for those don't have enough money to make it to the next paycheck while the ECB (European Central Bank ) keeps feeding the banks and killing workers and families," said Danila Cucunia, a 43 year old teacher.
"At the global level, we can't carry on any more with public debt that wasn't created by us but by thieving governments, corrupt banks and speculators who don't give a damn about us," said Nicla Crippa, 49. "They caused this international crisis and are still profiting from it. They should pay for it."
In Madrid, seven marches were planned to merge in Cibeles Square and then head to the central Puerta del Sol. In Germany, where sympathy for southern Europe's debt troubles is not widespread, thousands gathered in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and outside the ECB in Frankfurt, in protests called by the Real Democracy Now movement.
Demonstrators gathered peacefully in Paradeplatz, the main square in the Swiss financial center of Zurich.
Greek protesters called an anti-austerity rally for Saturday in Athens' Syntagma Square. "What is happening in Greece now is the nightmare awaiting other countries in the future. Solidarity is the people's weapon," the Real Democracy group said.
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