NEW YORK, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Thousands of anti-Wall Street protesters rallied in New York's Times Square on Saturday, buoyed by a global day of demonstrations in support of their monthlong campaign against corporate greed.
Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, protests on Saturday started in Asia and rippled through Europe back to the United States and Canada. Protesters fed up with economic inequality took to the streets in cities from Washington, Boston and Chicago to Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto.
After weeks of intense media coverage, the size of the U.S. protests on Saturday have been smaller than G20 meetings or political conventions yielded in recent years. Such events often draw tens of thousands of demonstrators.
In New York, where the movement began when protesters set up camp in a Lower Manhattan park on Sept. 17, organizers said the protest grew to at least 5,000 people as they marched to Times Square from their makeshift outdoor headquarters.
"These protests are already making a difference," said Jordan Smith, 25, a former substance abuse counselor from San Francisco, who joined the New York protest. "The dialogue is now happening all over the world."
The protesters chanted, "We got sold out, banks got bailed out" and "All day, all week, occupy Wall Street." They arrived in Times Square at a time when the area is already crowded with tourists and Broadway theatergoers.
"This is disgusting" said Anatoly Lapushner, who was shopping with his family at Toys R Us in Times Square. "Why aren't they marching on Washington and the politicians? Instead they go after the economic lifeblood of the city."
PARTY MOOD IN NEW YORK
American protesters are angry that U.S. banks are enjoying booming profits after getting bailouts in 2008, while many people are struggling in a difficult economy with more than 9 percent unemployment and little help from Washington.
Some were disappointed the New York crowd was not larger.
"People don't want to get involved. They'd rather watch on TV," said Troy Simmons, 47, who joined demonstrators as he left work. "The protesters could have done better today ... people from the whole region should be here and it didn't happen."
The Times Square mood was akin to New Year's Eve, when the famed "ball drop" occurs. In a festive mood, protesters were joined by throngs of tourists snapping pictures, together counting back from 10 and shouting, "Happy New Year."
Police said three people were arrested in Times Square after pushing down police barriers and five men were arrested earlier for wearing masks. Police also arrested 24 people at a Citibank branch in Manhattan, mostly for trespassing.
Citibank was not immediately available for comment.
At about 8 p.m., police arrested 42 people for blocking the sidewalk. Protesters complained they had no place to go with a wall of police in riot gear in front of them and thousands of demonstrators behind them leaving Times Square.
Five thousand people marched through the streets of Los Angeles and gathered peacefully outside City Hall.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has been gathering steam over the past month, culminating with Saturday's action. The protests worldwide were mostly peaceful apart from Rome, where the demonstration sparked riots.
But it was unclear if the movement, which has been driven using social media, would sustain momentum beyond Saturday. Critics have accused the group of not having clear goals.
In Toronto, a couple of thousand people gathered peacefully and started to set up a camp in one of the city's parks. Protesters in Washington marched through the streets.
"I am going to start my life as an adult in debt and that's not fair," student Nathaniel Brown told Reuters Television. "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."
Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in New York City yesterday culminated with a Times Square rally that drew thousands opposed to economic inequality, echoed by protests from London to Tokyo.
Participants in the month-old movement marched past a JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) branch early in the day to urge clients to close accounts. At least 6,000 gathered later in Times Square, the organizers estimated.
About 70 people were arrested as part of the day’s demonstrations, including 42 in the Midtown area who failed to disperse when warned, police said. Two police officers were hospitalized because of injuries, the department said.
Hong Kong, Sydney, Toronto and other cities also saw protests, which turned violent in Rome, in what organizers called a “global day of action against Wall Street greed.” Backers say they represent “the 99 percent,” a nod to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s study showing the top 1 percent of Americans control 40 percent of U.S. wealth.
“The world will rise up as one and say, ‘We have had enough,’” Patrick Bruner, an Occupy Wall Street spokesman, said in an e-mail. A news release from the organization said there were demonstrations in 1,500 cities worldwide, including 100 in the U.S.
March From Zuccotti
New York participants walked from an encampment in lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park to 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza near Wall Street. They passed out fliers urging clients to transfer accounts to “a financial institution that supports the 99 percent.”
The fliers provided a list of alternatives, including the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and Amalgamated Bank, described as the nation’s only union-owned bank.
“I’m interested in sending a message to support banks that actually support the community as opposed to those like Chase that took government money and fired workers anyway,” said Penny Lewis, 40, a City University of New York labor professor. She said she planned to close her Chase account on Monday.
Howard Opinsky, a spokesman for JPMorgan, said the bank has paid back the government funds and has been hiring employees. JPMorgan, the second-largest U.S. bank, received and repaid $25 billion from the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.
“JPMorgan Chase utilized TARP funds at the request of the government and was the first bank to pay the funds back plus an additional $1.7 billion more than was lent,” Opinsky said in an e-mailed comment.
He said JPMorgan Chase hired more than 13,000 people in the third quarter and more than 2,000 veterans this year.
A group left a demonstration at Washington Square Park and entered a downtown branch of Citibank at nearby LaGuardia Place, Deputy New York City Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne said in an e-mail.
They refused the bank manager’s request to leave and 24 were arrested for trespassing, he said. One was charged additionally with resisting; the others were compliant, he said.
More than 700 have been arrested in New York since the movement began Sept. 17, mostly for disorderly conduct. Police said they arrested 15 on Friday for infractions such as sitting in the street and overturning trash bins.
A wider confrontation was avoided after Zuccotti Park’s owner, Brookfield Office Properties Inc., postponed a cleanup that would have removed and banned protesters’ sleeping bags, tents and other gear that provided overnight accommodations.
Protesters and local politicians had gathered 300,000 signatures, flooded the city’s 311 information line and drew more than 3,000 people to the park to oppose the cleanup, Bruner said.
Pete Dutro, a member of the group’s finance committee, said it had received at least $150,000 in donations.
Justin Strekal, a Cleveland native and member of the protesters’ shipping, inventory and storage committee, said about 200 packages are being received daily. He said names and return addresses are being recorded so thank-you notes can be sent.
Letters of solidarity are also being archived to post online, he said. One that was included in a box holding 10 packets of ramen noodles said the sender couldn’t afford more because they were unemployed for two years and their house was in foreclosure, Strekal said.
David Gorman, who lives on Wall Street and works nearby as president of capital markets at Kern Suslow Securities Inc., said the area’s activity is a nuisance.
“They’re banging drums and screaming and it’s a quarter to eight in the morning and this is literally in my back yard,” he said. “People live here. If someone was protesting in front of my house in the suburbs, I don’t think they’d let that happen.”
The Occupy Wall Street protest has spread to U.S. cities including Boston, Philadelphia andSan Francisco. While New York’s participants have been allowed to stay at their encampment, other cities haven’t been as tolerant.
Near the Colorado Capitol building in Denver, police in riot gear took down protesters’ campsite and arrested two dozen people, the Associated Press reported. In San Diego, police used pepper spray to split up a human chain formed around a tent, the news agency said. In Trenton,New Jersey, police removed tents and other gear from an area near a war memorial on Friday.
WASHINGTON (AP/The Huffington Post) -- A senior political adviser to President Barack Obama is charging that the Republicans seeking the presidency don't understand the American public's pent-up anger over corporate excesses.
David Axelrod tells ABC's "This Week" that the American people "want a financial system that works on the level. They want to get a fair shake."
Axelrod faulted Republicans who have been pushing in Congress to soften or repeal the landmark legislation Obama pushed through last year, tightening regulation of business practices.
Axelrod said he doesn't believe "any American is impressed" when hearing GOP presidential candidates who want to "roll back Wall St. reform."
Nearly all of the major Republican presidential contenders have weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some, such as Herman Cain and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), say protesters should be directing their anger at the Obama administration rather than big banks and corporations.
Appearing Sunday morning on "Fox News Sunday," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said it was wrong to blame Wall Street for America's economic problems, and criticized political leaders who have embraced the movement.
"Where I am most concerned is we have elected leaders in this town who are frankly joining in the effort to blame others rather than focus on the policies that have brought about the current situation," he said.