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Outrage over economic inequalities goes global, turns violent

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in dozens of cities around the world Saturday, inspired by the month-old Occupy Wall Street demonstrations to clutch placards and chant slogans to protest what they call corporate greed and income equality.

The demonstration in Rome turned violent, contrasting with events elsewhere, when more than 500 marchers wielding clubs attacked police, two banks and a supermarket, Italian TV network Sky Tg24 reported. Others burned Italian and European Union flags. Authorities responded with tear gas and water cannons.

The Rome demonstration alone drew an estimated 100,000, and many Occupy Wall Street supporters tried to isolate the anarchists. At least 70 people, including 30 police officers, were injured, according to Italian TV network La7.

On Saturday, Occupy Wall Street said it expected a global turnout in 950 cities in 82 countries — a hallmark of coordination and rising anger against growing disparities in income across the world.

In Spain, hundreds of thousands turned out not just in Madrid but also in Bilbao, Valencia, Mieres and Valladolid — 80 cities in all. Tens of thousands converged on Madrid's Puerta del Sol square, where the protest movement known as 15-M (May 15) was launched.

In Austria, more than 1,000 marched through Vienna's busiest shopping street, with smaller protests around the country.

In Berlin, 5,000 people marched on the office of Chancellor Angela Merkel, police estimates said. "People Not Profit" read a poster in Frankfurt, where 5,000 protesters gathered at the European Central Bank — an important lynchpin in Europe's growing debt crisis.

Brief clashes were reported in London, where the police were out in force with dozens of riot vans, canine units and hundreds of officers. But the gathering, attended by people of all ages, was largely peaceful, with a picnic atmosphere. One demonstrator, dressed as Jesus Christ, held a sign that said "I Threw the Money Lenders Out for a Reason."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made an appearance at St. Paul's Cathedral, where he was met by hundreds of cheering fans. He called the protest movement "the culmination of a dream."

In a common theme worldwide, protesters insisted they represented the "99 percent" — a reference to Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz's study that showed the upper 1 percent of Americans now take in nearly 25 percent of the nation's income every year.

"In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent," Stiglitz wrote in Vanity Fair magazine in May. "Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent."

U.S. protests

Dozens of cities across the United States saw demonstrations Saturday, among them Boston, Detroit, Denver and Los Angeles.

In New York, demonstrators, joined by labor unions, turned their anger on JPMorgan Chase & Co. and urged a boycott, representative of anger at banks that accepted tens of billions of dollars in government bailout money in 2008.

"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out," the crowd chanted.

Thousands of demonstrators filled Times Square on Saturday night, mixing with gawkers, Broadway showgoers, tourists and police to create a chaotic scene in the midst of Manhattan.

Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, tried to push them out of the square and onto the sidewalks in an attempt to funnel the crowds away.

Sandra Fox, 69, of Baton Rouge, La., standing with a ticket for Anything Goes in her hand as riot police pushed a knot of about 200 shouting protesters toward her, was not a supporter of the protests. "I think it's horrible what they're doing," she said. "These people need to go get jobs."

At least 70 people were arrested in New York City, including 45 in Times Square. Two police officers suffered injuries and had to be hospitalized. One had a head injury.

In Washington, 1,000 demonstrators, some not affiliated with the occupy movement, demanded that Congress pass President Barack Obama's jobs bill.

Information from the Associated Press, McClatchy Newspapers and the New York Times was used in this report.

Outrage over economic inequalities goes global, turns violent 10/15/11 [Last modified: Sunday, October 16, 2011 12:19am]
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