LONDON — Linking up with the Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York, tens of thousands of people around the world took to the streets Saturday to reiterate their anger at the global financial system, corporate greed and government cutbacks.
Rallies were held in more than 900 cities in Europe, Africa and Asia, as well as in the United States, with some of the largest occurring in Europe. The demonstration in Rome turned violent, and more than 70 people were arrested in Manhattan on Saturday night, but crowds elsewhere were largely peaceful.
“What’s exciting about what’s happening is a sense of international solidarity,” said Ben Walker, 33, a university teacher from Norwich, England, who was carrying a tent and planning on camping overnight near the London Stock Exchange.
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 came 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.
Television images from Rome showed police launching tear-gas grenades and firing water cannons as a breakaway group clad in black set cars on fire and smashed bank machines and shop windows.
The clashes in the Italian capital left dozens injured, including several police officers, the Associated Press reported. 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 New York, thousands of protesters with Occupy Wall Street marched through the city’s financial district to Times Square, banging drums and chanting, “We got sold out, banks got bailed out!” Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, tried to push them out of the square and onto the sidewalks, AP reported. Police said more than 70 protesters were arrested through the course of the day. Two police officers were injured during the protest and had to be hospitalized, AP reported.
In London, thousands converged outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, after plans to occupy the London Stock Exchange were thwarted when police blocked the area, saying it was private property.
The atmosphere was lively, with activists chanting “Whose streets? Our streets!” and “We are the 99 percent!” in different languages. Mounted police officers responded with smiles to chants of “Get those animals off those horses!”
“I’m here to stand in solidarity with the protesters on Wall Street,” said Pekka Piirainen, a 19-year-old history student from Finland. He said that the “occupation” movement that kicked off in Spain in May with sit-ins and spread to Wall Street was now “a global thing happening.”
Rallies also drew sizable crowds in other North American cities, including Washington, Toronto, Denver, Orlando, Milwaukee and Raleigh, N.C., where 19 people were arrested for demonstrating in a park after the rally’s permit expired.