Occupy Wall Street demonstrators discovered this weekend that the 99 percent encompasses more than America.
Manhattan's protesters inspired demonstrations across the world rallied under banners bearing the phrase, We are the 99 percent, a mantra reflecting the perception that wealth and political influence are disproportionately concentrated in the hands of the most affluent. The phrase has resonated beyond its American origin, drawing people from Italy to New Zealand into rallies against economic inequity.
Demonstrations occured over the weekend in more than 900 cities in Asia, Europe and Australia. Thousands of people marched in Spain, some of them suggesting Occupy Wall Street found an impetus in the May 15 Movement that saw Spaniards protesting soaring unemployment and harsh austerity measures. Thousands also demonstrated across Germany and France.
The Oct. 15 protests coincided with finance ministers and bankers meeting in Paris to offer solutions to Europe's worsening financial crisis, and the demonstrations engulfing Europe crystallized a sense of outrage as the continent's economic woes have spurred deep budget cuts and offer the possibility of a further round of bailouts. Protests in Rome spiralled into violence that injured at least 70 people.
The efforts were not confined to Europe. Rallies also took place in Tokyo and in cities across the United States, resulting in the arrests of hundreds of protesters camped out in Chicago's Grant Park. Protesters in London have vowed to maintain their occupation of the courtyard of St. Paul's Cathedral, and separate offshoots in Auckland, New Zealand and Toronto have pledged to remain.
We'll stay for however long it takes to build a new democratic financial system, Kai Wargalla, a 26 year-old German studying sustainable economics in London who's one of those camping next to St. Paul's, told Bloomberg. It's about creating something new.
The Occupy Wall Street protesters have expressed a similar determination to remain in their downtown Manhattan base camp of Zuccotti Park since they arrived more than three weeks ago. They were vindicated on Friday when they rebuffed an attempt by the privately owned park's developer to clear the park for cleaning, a move that many protesters saw as a pretext to evict them. People determined to resist any efforts at removal flooded the park early on Friday morning and the developer backed down.
The victory emboldened protesters, who poured into Times Square on Saturday as part of the global show of solidarity. In another potential sign of Occupy Wall Street's staying power, the Associated Press reported that the movement has garnered close to $300,000 in donations.