Occupy the World

Demonstrators march on Times Square

What began as a small demonstration in NYC’s Zucotti Park has sparked a global uproar. The movement to “Occupy Wall Street” seems to have found resonance around the world, and just in time it would seem, as the world’s leading economies convened today at the G20 talks in Paris.

Protests began this morning in New Zealand and touched parts of mainland Asia. Demonstrators took up banners in Auckland, around a hundred gathered outside Taipei stock exchange, and in Hong Kong, a hub for major financial institutions, students joined with protesters to denounce banks and their political enablers.

As the sun rose in Rome, however, these rallies turned to riots. The city witnessed some of the worst violence it has seen in years. Hundreds of so-called demonstrators, hidden beneath masks and hoods, took to the streets, setting cars and offices ablaze. They call themselves the indignati, “the indignant ones,” though they appear like common thugs, tearing down traffic signs, shattering shop windows, and vandalizing banks.

Firefighters were even forced into action after protesters set fire to the Interior Ministry building in Rome. Throughout the day, at least 70 people were injured, three of them severely. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who narrowly retained power after a confidence vote on Friday, vowed to bring justice to these men.

Demonstrators rose throughout European cities, though none matched the violence or intensity seen in Rome. They were generally peaceful, and their message, though sometimes vague and misdirected, is at least relatable. In countries like Greece, students and youth complain that they will suffer from the austerity measures made necessary by profligate spending and corruption among the higher echelons of government.

In New York, where the movement began on September 17, there are reports that the protest has grown to at least 5,000. Throughout the day and up until now, demonstrators have been massing in Times Square. Earlier, 24 protesters were arrested for trespassing on a Citibank near Washington Square Park. According to some sources, these protesters had entered the bank simply to close their accounts. Others claim that the police made the arrests only after the protesters had refused to comply with the bank manager’s request for them to leave. Whatever the case, expect more of it in the coming days.

On their website, Occupy Wall Street organizers boasted that, “on October 15th the world will be under our influence. It will become whatever we want.” The world is certainly watching. Now it’s up to Occupy Wall Street to come up with a realistic platform. Until then, it’s just a lot of angry noise.

Thomas L. Hauch