It has been one month since protesters took to the streets of New York and set up a protest camp near Wall Street. This symbolic act has sparked a movement of protest against banks, corporations and the super-rich that has engaged people in cities all over the United States. And last Saturday, October 15 this protest reached world wide. From Rome to Tokyo to Pittsburgh the “Occupy Wall Street” movement has seen ordinary people gather in public places to condemn the tiny minority of the wealthy elite who are so visibly profiting while our hopes for the future are crushed by unemployment, uncertainty, and rising costs of living. The “Occupy Wall Street” protests have demonstrated a powerful possibility. People raise the slogan “We are the 99 percent!” and it is true. The overwhelming majority of the earth’s nearly seven billion people have every reason to make a common fight against the exploitation imposed on us by this system which serves only the wealthy. The protest on Saturday was a demonstration of our power if we organize together.
From Europe to Asia to the U.S., October 15 was truly a global show of anger and solidarity. People took to the streets in 1500 cities all across the world, in 80 countries, on four continents. The biggest demonstrations took place in Italy where the protests merged with an ongoing fight against cuts and layoffs being imposed by the government while it bails out the banks. Over 200,000 people marched in Rome on Saturday. Likewise in Spain 60,000 people protested in Madrid, and 20,000 in Puerta del Sol.
In London, 3,000 people marched in the heart of the city and in Berlin, 5,000 people protested in front of the European Central Bank. In Paris, thousands marched against a meeting of the G20, a meeting where the leaders and representatives of the wealthiest 20 countries of the world gather to set their financial policies. In Sydney, Australia, 2,000 people gathered in front of the Reserve Bank of Australia to protest. In Vancouver and Toronto thousands protested unemployment and cuts to social services. In Tokyo hundreds gathered protesting against budget cuts and against the use of nuclear energy which caused the Fukushima nuclear disaster at earlier this year. In the Philippines capital city, Manila, hundreds of protesters marched, calling for economic relief and the removal of the giant U.S. Military base stationed in that country. In Zurich, Switzerland, 1,200 demonstrators gathered to protest the major international bank, Credit Suisse. Meanwhile in Hong Kong, hundreds of protesters gathered in protest in front of the financial firm HSBC Holdings.
In the United States, the protests have spread across the country over the course of the last month. Five thousand protesters demonstrated in San Francisco, marching through the downtown financial district and City Hall. And in New York at the heart of the protest 20,000 people marched to Times Square. Other protests ranged from a few dozen in Jackson Mississippi, to 2,000 in Pittsburgh.
Commentators in the news media, desperate to find a sensational way to scare people away from demonstrating are quick to point to the actions of a few demonstrators in Rome. Some windows were broken and a few protesters fought with the police. But what does this so-called violence compare to the daily violence of this system which brutally forces people from their homes, denies them health care, and makes it impossible for people to support their families by denying them jobs? It’s clear whose side these newscasters are on – the side of the corporate owners of the television stations and the newspapers.
We are told these protests are limited because they don’t have demands, or they don’t have proposals for the politicians. But what demands can we make on the people whose system is responsible for all the attacks we are protesting? We have no demands for them except, get out of our way!
This protest demonstrates our potential power. More than 99 percent of the world suffers exploitation at the hands of the same wealthy elite of bankers, corporations, and their governments. In demonstrating together we can begin to see our common situation. We are the 99 percent, but we do 100 percent of the work to make this society run. We need to begin to go beyond just protesting the symptoms of a sick system. We could organize ourselves to transform it to meet our needs.