LONDON — Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York, protesters here entered a second day of demonstrations Sunday as they reiterated their anger at the global financial system, corporate greed and government cutbacks.
Rallies rippled across the globe on Saturday as more than 900 cities in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America took part in the worldwide demonstration, including Washington, Toronto, Denver, and Chicago, where more than 175 people were arrested early Sunday for failing to leave a park after it closed.
In cities around the world, a fraction of the protesters who joined the rallies Saturday were hunkering down for a second night of “occupation.”
It’s unclear how long protesters plan to stay, but it could be awhile: for example, according to local reports, hundreds in New Zealand are camping for the next six weeks in Auckland’s Aotea Square, while Toronto’s St. James park is now known as “tent city central.”
In London, the cobblestone courtyard of St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the city’s most iconic buildings, was filled with about 70 colorful tents and demonstrators who vowed to protest indefinitely.
Sitting next to her 11-month-old daughter on a blanket covered with toys, Lucy Aitken Read, a 29-year-old charity worker, said she hoped to attend the rally every day. “We hope to last the distance,” she said, adding “I really believe in a kind of fair and equal society and I’m here especially today because I think it’s really within our grasp.”
The worldwide uproar was inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement and Spanish activists, known as “the Indignants,” who began protesting in May, arguing for governments to stop heeding the concerns of financial markets while ignoring the plights of their own people.
In New York, thousands of protesters marched through the city’s financial district to Times Square on Saturday, banging drums and chanting, “We got sold out, banks got bailed out!” Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, arrested more than 80 protesters.
Organizers of the global demonstration said on their Web site that they were demanding a “true democracy.”
“United in one voice, we will let politicians, and the financial elites they serve, know it is up to us, the people, to decide our future,” they said.
The global demonstrations began on the same day that finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 nations met in Paris to discuss solutions to the debt crisis engulfing Europe.
On Sunday, Italy began calculating the costs of the protest in Rome, during which a breakaway group clad in black torched cars and smashed bank machines and shop windows. Police hit back with tear-gas grenades and water cannons.
Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno told reporters Sunday that repair costs were estimated at $1.4 million.
Violent clashes in the Italian capital left dozens injured, including several police officers. Police were out in force for the rally, which came a day after Premier Silvio Berlusconi barely survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament over his failure to address Italy’s mounting debt crisis.
In London, thousands of activists had planned a sit-in outside the London Stock Exchange but were thwarted when police told them it was private property.
Laura Martin, 29, said she would camp in the church square, close to the stock exchange, “as long as necessary,” with her group of about 15 Spaniards living in London, and planned to get involved in the many assembly groups that were discussing problems and solutions to the widening gap between the rich and poor, among other things. “It’s up to the people to stand up and say, we need to stop this and change the system now.”