ROME — Italian riot police fired tear gas and water cannons in Rome on Saturday as violent protesters hijacked a peaceful demonstration against corporate greed, smashing bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles.
Elsewhere, hundreds of thousands nicknamed “the indignant” marched without incident in cities across Europe, as the “Occupy Wall Street” protests linked up with long-running demonstrations against European governments’ austerity measures.
In Spain, the Indignant Movement that began around-the-clock “occupation” protest camps in May which lasted for weeks held evening marches Saturday that converged on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol plaza.
“There is a huge crowd here,” said Elsa Varona, whose choir sang an excerpt from Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco overture as the marchers arrived. Other Spanish cities including Barcelona, Seville, Valencia and Malaga hosted similarly well-attended gatherings.”
Portuguese protesters angry at their government’s handling of the economic crisis pushed against police lines in Lisbon, but officers stopped them from storming parliament.
Portugal is one of three European nations — along with Greece and Ireland — that has had to accept an international bailout.
In Frankfurt, continental Europe’s financial hub, 5,000 people protested at the European Central Bank, with some setting up a tent camp in front of the ECB building.
The London demonstration swelled to several thousand people by early evening, and police said three were arrested. While protesters erected tents and gathered blankets, food and water to settle down for the evening, police urged them to leave.
In Paris, marchers shook their fists and shouted as they passed the city’s historic stock exchange, before congregating by the hundreds outside the ornate City Hall.
The Greek capital of Athens has seen near-daily strikes and protests as the government fights to avoid bankruptcy, and Saturday was no different. Some 2,000 rallied outside parliament against a new austerity package being voted upon on Thursday, while teachers and civil servants held marches elsewhere in the city.
Several hundreds more marched in the German cities of Berlin, Cologne and Munich and the Austrian capital of Vienna, while protesters in Zurich, Switzerland’s financial hub, carried banners reading “We won’t bail you out yet again” and “We are the 99 percent.”
That referred to the world’s richest one percent, who control billions in assets while billions of others are struggling to make ends meet.
Across the Atlantic, hundreds protested near the Toronto Stock Exchange and the headquarters of major Canadian banks to decry what they called government-abetted corporate greed. Protests were also being held in Montreal, Vancouver, Halifax and Winnipeg.
In New York, hundreds marched on a Chase bank to protest the role banks played in the financial crisis, and demonstrations culminated in an “Occupation Party” in Times Square.
Printed on Monday, October 17, 2011 as: 'Occupy' protests spread worldwide