'Occupy' protests rumble on

 

The hangover from a global "Day of Rage" against bankers and politicians turned out to be a mild one for most today, after protests that were peaceful everywhere but Italy.

Cities from east Asia to Europe and north America saw rallies yesterday denouncing capitalism, inequality and economic crisis, but riot police were busy only in Rome.

The city cleared up today, a day after masked and armed "Black Bloc" protesters torched cars, attacked banks and hurled rocks.

"Yesterday we once again showed the world the anomaly of Italy and today, again, we have to feel shame," La Stampa newspaper said. Mayor Gianni Alemanno said the capital would long suffer the "moral damage" of the rampage.

Tens of thousands of other "indignant ones" had marched peacefully against the government of deeply-indebted Italy.

Lisbon and Madrid also saw tens of thousands march, but most turnouts were lower. "People don't want to get involved. They'd rather watch on TV," said Troy Simmons (47) protesting in New York, where the Occupy Wall Street movement that inspired the global day of unrest began.

In New York a few dozen were arrested for minor offences. Other cities across the United States and Canada saw modestly-sized and peaceful demonstrations.

"I am going to start my life as an adult in debt and that's not fair," student Nathaniel Brown said in Washington.

"Millions of teenagers across the country are going to start their futures in debt, while all of these corporations are getting money fed all the time and none of us can get any."

The wave of protest was not quite all over. Around 250 protesters set up camp outside St Paul's Cathedral on the edge of London's financial district, promising to occupy the site indefinitely to show their anger over the global economic crisis.

The group had tried to take over the area in front of the nearby London Stock Exchange yesterday. After being thwarted by police, the group moved to the cathedral and put up 70 tents. Some said they would stay there as long as possible.

"People are saying enough is enough, we want a real democracy, not one that is based on the interests of big business and the banking system," said protester Jane McIntyre.

British foreign secretary William Hague said he had some sympathy.

"It is true that a lot of things have to be faced up to in the Western world and there have been too many debts built up by states and clearly in the banking system a lot has gone wrong," he told BBC TV.

"However, protest won't be the answer to that. The answer is (for) governments to control their debts and deficits. I'm afraid protesting the streets is not going to solve the problem."

"We support the right to peaceful protest, it's very important those protests are kept peaceful," Mr Hague added.

The "Occupy London" protest is much smaller than other recent marches in the city over job cuts and university fees.

A dozen tents housing around 40 protesters also appeared in front of the European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt. Protests were also held in Dublin and Cork.

The rallies tracked the sun from the Asia-Pacific region westwards yesterday, but the first demonstrations in the east made ripples rather than waves.

In a region where many countries are still booming, protesters' grievances were less to do with economics than in Europe and north America.

"Anti-capitalism is not my cause but anti-authoritarianism is definitely my cause and as citizens ... we came here to stand up for our rights," said lecturer Wong Chin Huat (38) at a small protest in Kuala Lumpur.

In Tokyo, many gathered to complain about radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, seven months after an earthquake and tsunami.

Most Asian countries are free of the kind of debt burdens afflicting the United States and European states, especially Greece.

European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet said the European Union's treaty should be changed to prevent one member state from destabilising the rest of the bloc, and urged stronger euro zone governance.

"In my view it is necessary to change the treaty to prevent one member state from straying and creating problems for all the others," he said.

Reuters