Anti-Wall Street demonstrations against corporate greed spread across the USA and the world over the weekend, with protests turning violent in Rome.
Though demonstrations were largely peaceful, 175 people were arrested in Chicago early Sunday after refusing to take down tents in a city park. Dozens of others were arrested from New York to Arizona on Saturday.
The protests are loosely organized, but a general theme is based on the theory that the richest 1% of the population controls a disproportionate share of wealth and political power. Complaints focus on the 9.1% U.S. unemployment rate, the housing crisis, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“The majority of people in this country and around the world are tired of big corporations and big money ruling the world,” said Bruce Wright, 50, of St. Petersburg, Fla., who helped organize the demonstration at Freedom Plaza in Washington.
“If we want revolutionary change in this country, we have to be willing to do the same things that they’re doing in Tunisia and Egypt,” he said.
Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said now that the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has grown, the question is whether it can organize for political effect.
“The easier part is protesting,” he said. “It’s the nitty-gritty work of politics, day in and day out, that actually makes a difference in an election season.”
•In Chicago, 2,000 attended a protest, and then 500 set up camp at an entrance to Grant Park before police began the arrests.
•In New York City, thousands of protesters in Times Square chanted, “Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!” and 42 were arrested for taking down police barriers. Two-dozen were arrested after entering a Citibank branch and refusing to leave.
•In Arizona, about 100 people were arrested — 53 in Tucson and 46 in Phoenix — after protesters refused police orders to disperse. In Phoenix, 1,000 people packed César Chávez Park to protest abuses by banks and corporations. Several hundred rallied in Tucson’s Military Plaza Park.
Elsewhere Saturday: About 1,500 demonstrators marched for several blocks in Pittsburgh; an estimated 1,500 marched past banks in Orlando; about 1,000 rallied in downtown Denver and nearly 200 spent the night in Detroit’s Grand Circus Park.
Similar demonstrations took place in London, Toronto and Mexico City. In Rome, protesters broke away from the main demonstration, smashing shop and bank windows, and burning cars. Mayor Gianni Alemanno estimated the damage to city property at $1.4million.
Tarak Kauff, 70, a member of Veterans for Peace who attended the Washington demonstration, said the message isn’t just from his group but is bubbling up everywhere.
“People have tasted what it means to have people power,” said Kauff, of Woodstock, N.Y.
“They’re not only suffering in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they’re suffering right here in this country,” he said.