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Across the World, the Indignant Rise Up Against Corporate Greed and Cuts

David Randall and Matt Thomas, The Independent/UK
Protests against corporate greed, executive excess and public austerity began to gel into the beginnings of a worldwide movement yesterday as tens of thousands marched in scores of cities. The “Occupy Wall Street” protest, which started in Canada and spread to the US, and the long-running Spanish “Indignant” and Greek anti-cuts demonstrations coalesced on a day that saw marches or occupations in 82 countries.

Some protests were small, as in Tokyo, where only 200 turned up; some were large, as in Spain, where around 60 separate demonstrations were staged; and some were muted, as in London, where nearly 2,000 intending to march on the Stock Exchange obeyed police who turned them back. As dusk fell, some 500 of them were kettled in St Paul’s churchyard.

Containment tactics were also used by police in New York last night as thousands of demonstrators were penned behind barricades in Times Square. They had marched through Manhattan and protested outside the city’s banks, withdrawing their money as they did.

Only one of the protests, in Rome, was violent. Here, among an estimated 100,000 protesters, were a few who broke away and hurled bottles, smashed shop windows, torched cars and attacked news crews. There were reports that the defence ministry had been partly trashed. Most of the disorder took place near the Colosseum, and police charged the protesters and fired water cannon. Some demonstrators fled, but others turned against the troublemakers, trying, with limited success, to stop them. Italy, with a national debt ratio second only to Greece’s in the 17-nation eurozone, is rapidly becoming a focus of concern in Europe’s debt crisis.
(16 October 2011)

Occupy Wall Street: Beyond the Caricatures

Michael Tracey, Reason
Outsiders are criticizing a heterodox movement that they choose not to understand.

It’s very easy to decree from afar that the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators flooding Lower Manhattan right now are there for no other reason than to recite hackneyed leftist bombast. Indeed, without interviewing a single attendee, National Review editor Rich Lowry determined that the thousands who have flocked to Liberty Plaza in recent weeks are nothing more than a “woolly-headed horde” spouting “juvenile rabble.”

I strongly disagree. By and large, the folks I’ve spoken to have not come off as “woolly-headed” in the slightest. On Wednesday, for instance, I chatted with Jack Zwaan, a self-described “Tea Party Libertarian” and Ron Paul supporter who had flown in from Little Rock, Arkansas, to attend the demonstration. Zwaan wielded a humongous Gadsden flag—yes, the kind of flag commonly seen at Tea Party protests.

While there’s no question that the Occupy movement has an ethereally left-leaning tilt—and to be sure, the appearance of traditional unions can make that tilt more pronounced—all the “End the Fed” advocates, Ron Paul supporters, Internet freedom activists, and even some who identify as “Tea Party Patriots” in the mix make this phenomena difficult to characterize with pithy soundbites.
(7 October 2011)
An intelligent report from the Libertarian “Reason” website. -BA

America’s ‘Primal Scream’

Nicholas Kristoff, New York Times
… my interviews with protesters in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park seemed to rhyme with my interviews in Tahrir earlier this year. There’s a parallel sense that the political/economic system is tilted against the 99 percent. Al Gore, who supports the Wall Street protests, described them perfectly as a “primal scream of democracy.”

The frustration in America isn’t so much with inequality in the political and legal worlds, as it was in Arab countries, although those are concerns too. Here the critical issue is economic inequity. According to the C.I.A.’s own ranking of countries by income inequality, the United States is more unequal a society than either Tunisia or Egypt

… More broadly, there’s a growing sense that lopsided outcomes are a result of tycoons’ manipulating the system, lobbying for loopholes and getting away with murder. Of the 100 highest-paid chief executives in the United States in 2010, 25 took home more pay than their company paid in federal corporate income taxes, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.

Living under Communism in China made me a fervent enthusiast of capitalism. I believe that over the last couple of centuries banks have enormously raised living standards in the West by allocating capital to more efficient uses. But anyone who believes in markets should be outraged that banks rig the system so that they enjoy profits in good years and bailouts in bad years.

The banks have gotten away with privatizing profits and socializing risks, and that’s just another form of bank robbery.
(15 October 2011)

‘Occupy’ is a response to economic permafrost

Paul Mason, BBC
In February I wrote a blog called “Twenty Reasons Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere”. With the global Occupy protests yesterday it is still looking quite accurate. But it’s now clear there is a 21st reason. And a 22nd. We’ve had nine months of political paralysis. And people have begun to feel the economic permafrost setting in.

I went down to Paternoster Square to observe the first few hours of the London protest. The police sealed off the square, which is private property, so the protesters squatted the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. They had a big, sit-down general assembly and then broke into small circles, cross-legged, then got back together and decided to stay the night. At that point there were around 2,000 people.

Who were they? This is not yet as demographically wide as the indignado camps in Madrid or Syntagma were when they first started. Nor is it as “mainstream” as Occupy Wall street – yet. Not a single mainstream British politician attempted to appear at the protest; not a single MP, not a single famous author or film-maker. Helen John, the Greenham Common veteran, spoke, as did Peter Tatchell, but the biggest response – indeed it was a rock-star like response – was for Julian Assange. He was acclaimed by 9/10ths of the crowd and barracked in ribald language by the others.

… Most people involved in such protests have switched off from mainstream politics: they believe it’s a rich-person’s club and totally impenetrable to reason or pressure. In Britain they have no intention of “raising demands” on Labour in opposition.

In fact they revel in their diversity; it was true in Syntagma and it is true at St Paul’s – if you ask 50 people why they’re here and what they want you will get 50 answers.

Powerful signal worldwide
But these protests are a powerful signal worldwide. Their mere existence shows that people are determined to “think globally” about routes out of this crisis – at a time when economics is driving politicians down the route of national solutions. However marginalised they are politically – and in some countries, above all America and Greece, they have broken out of marginalisation – it is still a fact: in 1931, as the remnants of Globalisation 1.0 collapsed, there were no mass international protests against austerity. There were plenty of national, and indeed nationalist ones.
(16 October 2011)