Thousands rally amid economic woes on two sides of Atlantic

Anti-Wall Street activists shut parts of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge before hundreds of them are arrested. Crows in Hungary
and Portugal hold protests against austerity plans

More than 700 people protesting bailouts and corporate influence were arrested in the US. REUTERS photo

More than 700 people protesting bailouts and corporate influence were arrested in the US. REUTERS photo

The U.S. police arrested more than 700 anti-Wall Street protesters during their biggest demonstration yet against banking bailouts and corporate influence in US politics. Tens of thousands in Hungary and Portugal hit the streets the same day, in a reation against their goverment’s austerity measurres.

The Wall-Street activists, many of whom have been camped out in Manhattan for two weeks, were detained during their latest and biggest demonstration yet against government-backed banking bailouts and corporate influence in U.S. politics.

The “Occupy Wall Street” movement said it had staked its ground in downtown Manhattan “as a symbolic gesture of our discontent with the current economic and political climate.”

Some of the demonstrators carried hand-drawn placards that read “End the Fed” and “Pepper spray Goldman Sachs” in what police described as a peaceful protest that nevertheless saw hundreds detained for public order offenses.

“More than 700 people were arrested. Most of them for disorderly conduct,” a New York Police Department, or NYDP spokesman told AFP.

The anti-Wall Street activists began their campaign by occupying Zuccotti Park, in the heart of Manhattan’s financial district, on September 17 and have since held protests outside the New York Stock Exchange and NYPD headquarters.

Some of those arrested at the bridge on Saturday were released after a few hours, while others would likely be held for a day or could receive a court summons, police said.

“We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent,” Occupy Wall Street, which describes itself as a resistance movement inspired by the Arab Spring, said in a statement.

Saturday’s protest forced authorities to shut down the bridge for several hours as police placed protestors in handcuffs while others chanted slogans.

Another NYPD spokesman said there were “several hundred protestors who decided to walk on the roadway and who blocked traffic. Some heeded the warnings, some left, and arrests were made.”

Police shut down the Brooklyn Bridge “for a couple of hours” in the late afternoon, the NYPD said, adding that many protestors had remained on the bridge’s pedestrian walkway without incident.

Protestors have added police brutality to their lengthy and still vaguely defined list of grievances after a senior officer used pepper spray against four demonstrators who had already been shut inside a police pen a week ago.

Meanwhile in Boston on Saturday, 24 protestors were arrested and charged with trespassing as a vast crowd marched outside Bank of America offices.

Right to the City, the coalition of advocacy groups that organized the demonstration, said the event was held to protest corporate greed and to stop bank foreclosures.

According to organizers, around 3,000 people marched outside the bank. Police did not provide a crowd estimate.

A group of protesters he marches to Los Angeles City Hall during the “Occupy Los Angeles” demonstration in solidarity with the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations in New York City on Saturday.

The Portugal government and private sector workers demonstrated in Lisbon and Porto, following a call by the country’s largest trade union federation to speak out against policies it says threaten “jobs, workers, pensions and social rights.”

Rally organizers claimed 130,000 people demonstrated in Lisbon and 50,000 turned out in Porto. Portugal’s police did not provide an estimate of the crowd, but local media’s tallies said the figures were inflated.

“It is time to change course,” said Manuel Carvalho da Silva, secretary general of the organizing CGTP union federation, during a rally closing speech.

“We need a political alternative,” he said, and called for a “week of action” against “impoverishment and injustice”, the watchwords of Saturday’s protest.

He further called for a slew of strikes on October 20 and 27.

In April, Portugal became the third eurozone country after Greece and Ireland to request an emergency bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to deal with its mountain of debt.

D-day in Hungary

Still Saturday, several thousand people protested against the Hungarian government’s pension cuts and other measures at a rally of trade unions and civilians.

They also demanded that the government, which has an overwhelming majority in parliament, respect democratic institutions, which they say are being trampled.

The rally is part of a series of protests against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, launched by unions under the name “D-day” referring to the day the Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy in World War Two.

The demonstrators, who rallied outside parliament in the centre of Budapest, shouted “Orban go away” and held up banners demanding fair wages and job security.


Sunday, October 2, 2011
NEW YORK / LISBON / BUDAPEST – Agence France-Presse