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Updated: October 16, 2011 22:07 IST

Frustration over widening rich-poor gap

    Cara Buckley
    Rachel Donadio
Comment (7)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
AP "Occupy Wall Street" protesters fill Times Square for a rally on Saturday.

Buoyed by the longevity of the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City, a wave of protests swept across Asia, the Americas and Europe on Saturday, with hundreds and in some cases thousands of people expressing discontent with the economic tides in marches, tallies and occasional clashes with police.

In Rome, a rally thick with tension spread over several km. Small groups of restive young people turned a largely peaceful protest into a riot, setting fire to at least one building and a police van and clashing with police officers, who responded with water cannons and tear gas. The police estimated that dozens of protesters had been injured, along with 26 law enforcement officials; 12 people were arrested.

At least 88 people were arrested in New York, including 24 accused of trespassing in a Greenwich Village branch of Citibank and 45 during a raucous rally of thousands of people in and around Times Square. More than 1,000 people filled Washington Square Park at night, but almost all of them left after dozens of police officers with batons and helmets streamed in and warned that they would be enforcing a midnight curfew. Fourteen were arrested for remaining in the park.

Other than Rome's, the demonstrations across Europe were largely peaceful, with thousands of people marching past ancient monuments and gathering in front of capitalist symbols like the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany. Similar scenes unfolded across several continents, including in Sydney, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles, where several thousand people marched to City Hall as passing drivers honked their support.

But just as the rallies in New York have represented a variety of messages signs have been held in opposition to President Barack Obama yards away from signs in support of him so did Saturday's protests contain a grab bag of sentiments, opposing nuclear power, political corruption and the privatisation of water.

Yet, despite the difference in language, landscape and scale, the protests were united in frustration with the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

“I have no problem with capitalism,” Herbert Haberl (51) said in Berlin. “But I find the way the financial system is functioning deeply unethical. We shouldn't bail out the banks. We should bail out the people.”

In New York, where the occupation of Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan was moving into its second month, a large crowd marched north to Washington Square Park, where it was joined by several hundred college students who decried, among other things, student debt and unemployment.

Saturday's protests sprang not only from the Occupy Wall Street movement that began last month in New York, but also from demonstrations in Spain in May. This weekend, the global protest effort came as Finance Ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 industrialised nations meet in Paris to discuss economic issues, including ways to tackle Europe's sovereign debt crisis

Tens of thousands of protesters assembled in Madrid on Saturday evening, when chants mingled with live music, including a rendition of Beethoven's “Ode to Joy,” lending the downtown area an upbeat feel on an unusually balmy fall afternoon.

In Rome, the protests on Saturday were as much about the growing dissatisfaction with the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who narrowly survived a vote of confidence on Friday, as they were about global financial inequities. Tens of thousands of people turned out for what started as peaceful protests and then devolved into ugly violence. The windows of shops and banks were smashed, a police van was destroyed and some Defense Ministry offices were set alight.

''We don't feel represented by the government. We feel made fun of,” said a protester in Rome. “We're upset because we don't have prospects for the future. We'll never see a pension. We'll have to work until we die.” — New York Times News Service

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Is it possible to narrow the rich-poor gap by throwing rocks on bank windows and destroying public property ? Merely getting frustrated does not help. Have the courage to overcome adverse conditions.Think of positive means to earn. People have from time immemorial prospered and not perished. Inventions and innovations bring prosperity. Have initiative to persue and progress. There should be development without destruction.

from:  B.Gopalaswami
Posted on: Oct 18, 2011 at 20:50 IST

The western economic model has failed. The so called democracy is a sham as there can be no democracy in a system of (gross) economic inequality. The system in the west is marked by endemic and institutionalised corruption. The virus of corruption is affecting India too with the increasing corporatization of the Indian state.
The masses are beginning to wake up and hopefully will unite with the progressive forces in society to defeat the scourge of neo liberalism.

from:  Sohail Zahid
Posted on: Oct 17, 2011 at 19:58 IST

Socio-economic inequality and relative deprivations of 95% of the
population while 5% rich are filling their pockets under the garb of
capitalist economy, are the real reason for such protests. These
protests can't be controlled by use of force but only through change
in policies which foster more egalitarian societies. The elite will
obviously term them as a 'working class coup' and use all the methods
to crush such protests. But the continued exploitation of working
class and the poor over decades in the name of efficiency and entrepreneurship is too deep-rooted to be cowed down by empty promises
or threats. This is a God-send for Obama, who wants a re-election.
This is a historic opportunity for him to be the 'change-agent' which
a large section of americans are looking forward.

from:  sanjay
Posted on: Oct 17, 2011 at 09:40 IST

Well its time to get up from our hibernating coffins.
This was the way with which corporates were ruling us till day.
The government policies are framed to benfit them, the natural resources are sourced to them so that they extract it to the last piece. The wars are started because corporates belive that the other side has huge oil reserves. Poor countries are completely at the mercy of MNCs. It rediculous that the government uses the public money to bail out the private money looters. Its time to go against the tide. This hegemony of corporates should end. Hope Indian government also awakes to this trend. Bring in enough laws which separates and draws line between public money and private money.

from:  azim
Posted on: Oct 17, 2011 at 09:26 IST

There is a need for Occupy Dalal Street Movement in India also. India in league with the world as far as the Capitalist Greed is concerned. See how they dividends to their own share-holders. They pay on the basis of so-called Face Value of the shares while investors pay on the basis of Current Market Price. The face value is approx.1/500th of the current market price. Result is that shareholders are getting poorer and the Capitalists, who are controlling the companies are getting richer. God bless the Regulators. The capitalists, who cannot do justice to their own share-holders on whose money they are getting richer, cannot be expected to do anything for Society at large. There must be a law that a certain percentage of profit of a registered company must be spent on social work.

from:  HBS PAHWA
Posted on: Oct 17, 2011 at 05:07 IST

The gap between rich and poor existed from time Human society organised the difference now is poor can communicate by i phones,ipad,twitter,facebook etc and organise large gatherings very easily goes to show the progress of technology and we do have power to vote and socity enmass has to make decisions and we cannot think of using guillotine on people perceived to be robbing the poor as I am neither rich or poor but believe in democratic solutions rather than a culture of envy and hate as the term rich is in the eye of beholder as possesition of iphone can be expensive.vandalism,voilence is not a proper response.

from:  kausik
Posted on: Oct 17, 2011 at 00:17 IST

* Protest due to income disparity *
If you work hard and/or take chances to profit from investment, you’re entitled to have good wealth. If you are lazy, collect entitlements, take drugs, and drop out from high school, you’re entitled to be poor. The rich and the poor have one vote each, and the politicians are buying votes so they will take care of the poor at first glance. However, the politicians have to satisfy first the special groups who pay their campaigns. When the protesters are not against gun control, wars in Middle East…, I conclude they bark at the wrong tree. You know who suffer most for the bankers’ greed that caused this recession. The rich who own most of the bank stocks. Who is negligent? The government for not setting up/enforcing corrective regulations. It seems it is representation without taxation. 45% of us do not pay any income tax. I’m not saying the poor should not have the right to vote, but the long-term welfare recipients should not have this right.

from:  Tony P
Posted on: Oct 16, 2011 at 22:52 IST
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