October 17th, 2011
12:13 PM ET

'Occupy' movement goes global as a symbol of shared economic frustration

Editor's note: iReporters all over the globe are showing us what Occupy Wall Street is like in their towns and cities through the Open Story: from the Aleutian Islands to Raleigh, North Carolina; from Reykjavik, Iceland, to Zadar, Croatia. Check out a map of the reports, videos and pictures here.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which swept across the United States as thousands demanded that government institutions change to help fix a struggling economy, gained a major boost as the world began to come together in solidarity over shared economic frustrations.

As the sun rose on each country, one-by-one in the same way each stock market would open, protesters took to the streets. What began as a movement that was largely ignored by the mainstream media can't be dismissed anymore, not when thousands of people are sharing rally cries from Zucotti Park in New York to City Hall Square in Copenhagen, Denmark. Perhaps that's what organizers hoped for when they called the global day of protest "Solidarity Saturday."

But that global push may not end with the one day of solidarity. Some would say it has bolstered the ambitions and confidence of those who began Occupy Wall Street. It was a hint that, with the right support and organization, they can spread the message they've so desperately tried to get across: They want change, and they want it now. And even though the frustrations and complaints may differ from country to country, the theme remains that governments aren't handling economic crises properly.

The protests spread amid the growing financial troubles for several Western countries. Maybe that's why it's no surprise the global movement came during a G20 meeting of ministers and bankers in Paris. Finance ministers with the Group of 20 pledged Saturday to take "all necessary actions" to stabilize global markets and ensure that banks are capitalized.

Europeans turned out to protest amid debt troubles and austerity plans in Greece, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Germany. And in an increasingly intertwined global economy where Americans watch what happens in the Greek debt crisis, the world too is watching to see how the United States is handling its economic issues.

In the spirit of that solidarity, thousands stepped out to support the frustrations of the unemployed in the U.S. and, in some cases, to share their own grievances.

We're taking a look at scenes from across the world to find out more about the main frustrations being lodged and how the protests are drawing support from each other through the lenses of our reporters and iReporters around the world.


The movement gained traction in London especially because of the presence of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Some Brits, who have not been shy to share their frustrations with their economic situation during riots months earlier, echoed American sentiments that governments need to focus not just on the rich but on the little man.

Amedeo d'Amore , an iReporter, was at a demonstration near St. Paul's Cathedral, where he said there were about 1,500 to 2,000 protesters along with a few hundred police officers.

Protesters gather at the London Stock Exchange on Saturday.

"Essentially, they are very disappointed by the current economic system," he said. "From my understanding, they feel that governments have done too much to protect companies while doing very little to assist the average citizen."

iReporter Hao Li was also at the London protests and said the activists were mostly young people between 20 to 30 years old. They didn't appear to represent the overall "general population" of London or the United Kingdom. It was more politically active young people rather than those who have suffered from the financial crisis, he said.

Assange's message did echo some of the common messages from Occupy Wall Street, Li told CNN's iReport.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at protests in London, England.

"He did say several times that the current financial system was unsustainable (and) made a few jabs at the greed and evilness of bankers in London who caused people so much harm," Li said.

Kyle Meyr's photos  showed signs portraying the banks in the UK as the real looters, referring to the summer riots. But Meyr found that like in New York, there was an apparent lack of cohesion as to what the protests centered around.

"The crowd was amazingly enthusiastic, but you could see that a good number of them were confused about what they had come out to protest. It seemed that a lot of them had mixed agendas and scattered ideas of where these protests should be going," Meyr said. "Some tried aggression and yelling, others handed out fliers, and the rest seemed to just be along for the ride.

"To be completely honest, I cannot decide on one unifying theme of the protest. Most were there to show their hatred for the government bailouts for banks, and others hated the banks themselves, but there were a few that just seemed to dislike wealthy people in general."


John Sprankle was alongside demonstrators in Paris who were showing solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.

He said that while posters seemed to indicate the economy was at the heart of the protest, he wasn't sure whether there was a solidly common theme.

"I don't see anyone offering solutions. There doesn't seem to be a unified voice," he said.

He also felt some came out to be part of the movement without really being involved in the cause.

"I also believe the majority of the marchers don't even know what they are marching about and see it more as a party," he said. "In fact, I'd say if anyone can camp put anywhere for six weeks, they are definitely not producing and paying taxes, so they have nothing to protest against."


At the protests in Rome, things took a particularly violent turn. Firefighters battled a blaze at an Interior Ministry building near Porta San Giovanni, the main gathering site of the Italian protesters taking part in the Occupy movement Saturday.

Ernesto Gygax documented the protests near the famous Basilica of St. John Lateran, where police struggled to keep violence from turning deadly. A spokesman for Mayor Gianni Alemanno, who condemned the violence, said that 70 people were injured, 40 of them police officers.

The protesters - some wearing ski masks and belonging to a group called Black Bloc - torched cars, broke windows and clashed with police.

Jeremy T. Katz captured the mood of the demonstrators.

"'The leaders were holding a sign that said, "PEOPLE OF EUROPE: RISE UP,' " he said.

Katz said the crowd was primarily peaceful and appeared to be normal working-class citizens. They chanted demands in Italian, he said. Generally, the group appeared upbeat "but clearly angry with the EU and Italian officials."

"Their main demands seemed to revolve around the failure of their government and the EU to handle the economic crisis. They protested job cuts and tax increases, as well as the "greedy" big banks and corporations. I could tell they were also upset that the Italian premier, Silvio Berlusconi, had not been voted out of office yesterday."

Katz too saw violence at the protests.

"Further back, there was a group of more violent protestors who lit two cars on fire and smashed the windows of a post office and a bank," he said.

Oslo, Norway

Siri Klemetsaune went to observe the OccupyOslo movement in Norway and said that about 100 people turned out for the protest near Stortinget, the parliamentary building.

Klemetsaune, who said she is unemployed and on welfare, said the turnout was larger than expected.

Demonstrators gather at OccupyOslo in Norway.

"Despite the initial grim sound of OccupyOslo in light of recent events, a fairly major crowd of approximately 100 people gathered outside the governmental building on October the 15th to show their support of the Occupy Wall street movement," Klemetsaune told CNN's iReport. "This in a country in which the entire population might as a matter of fact be a part of the infamous 1%."

Klemetsaune, 29, is "fairly OK" with the government's rule in Norway for now.

"But the future worries me. The system of ruling appears to need a change, before we fall into the trap America has fallen into," Klemetsaune said. "Now, I’m not sure how to end this. But let’s just say that even though we are filthy rich and privileged, we stand by the people of the worlds side. Occupying."

Copenhagen, Denmark

Mikkel Wiese was with demonstrators in Copenhagen.

He said there were young and old side-by-side with parents and children, those who were politically active and those who had lost their jobs.

Movement leaders share their message in Copenhagen, Denmark.

"They want money spent on the 99%, and they want to take it not only from the rich but also from the expenses on wars," he said. "I have sympathy with the peacefully minded protesters and their concern for the poor."

Wiese sent pictures of the large-scale demonstrations where messages were shouted through megaphones and signs proclaimed that change was in the hands of the protesters.

Signs show the frustration from those at protests in Denmark.


Sarah E. Matson was in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where protesters are "demanding an end to corruption in the financial world and more attention for the middle class," she said.

"I totally agree, which is why I was there," Matson told CNN's iReport.

Matson said everyday people took turns at the microphone, speaking both in Dutch and English.

Protests also took place in Netherlands, Amsterdam.

"The complaints were as varied as they were poignant," she said. "(There was) a refugee from the Philipines, a student from Amsterdam, older protesters remembering a similiar protests years earlier and young organizers making it clear that change needs to happen for the world to become a safe, cleaner and less corrupt place."

RekyjavĂ­k, Iceland

Halldor Sigurdsson was at a rally in solidarity with the global Occupy movement in RekyjavĂ­k, Iceland.

"The people were angry and said what the think about the financial system in Iceland and all over the world," he said. "They want the government to stop helping those that are responsible for the banking crisis while the public gets little help."


Jason Ward, a Los Angeles native visiting Tokyo on a three-week trip, was at a demonstration where he said roughly 300 demonstrators took part in the solidarity movement.

"The crowd was about 80% Japanese and 20% American tourists, with signs in both Japanese and English," he said.

Demonstrators show solidarity with signs in Tokyo, Japan.

"Though there were chants about corporate greed, it was predominantly an anti-nuclear movement. The numbers weren't huge, but the folks I talked to seemed very inspired by what was happening in the U.S."

Taipei, Taiwan

Keith Perron, a radio journalist living and working in East Asia, was with people protesting in Taipei, Taiwan.

"The police presence was not big. Very small, in fact," he said. "After the crowed walked around the Taipei 101, they were let in the Taipei 101 in an orderly fashion, which was very unexpected."

Perron said he believed that about 85% of the crowd was between the ages of 18 and 30.


Yusur Al Bahrani was with the Occupy Toronto movement that marched through the streets of the city's downtown area.

He described the protesters as being from different communities and having "different political perspectives, but they all share one thing: being against war, militarism and corporate greed."

Al Bahrani said the demonstrators also demanded job opportunities and opportunities for the work force.

"I totally agree with them," he told CNN's iReport. "I am the 99%"

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Filed under: Canada • Economy • Europe • France • Iceland • Italy • Japan • Jobs • Julian Assange • Netherlands • Norway • Occupy Wall Street • Taiwan • U.S. • United Kingdom
soundoff (1,288 Responses)
  1. MiltR

    At a young age, my father began to periodically repeat the same statement to me. Typically this statement was repeated when I didn't perform to my potential. He would say "Son, the top 1% of the population controls 90% of the wealth...Do you want to be in the 1% or the other 99?" I always knew I wanted to make a good income and be able to enjoy life. As a Black man, I am fortunate to have been raised in a two parent household with a high income level for the time period. My parents combined made over 80K a year in the 1970's..not rich but pretty good for back then. We travelled, Hawaii, the US, cruises, etc. Frankly I had a great childhood sure there was and still is racism, but I firmly believe that everything boils down to money and if you can do the job well and have good skills someone will hire you at a good salary. I have made it a point to educate myself and I served my country in the Army for 6 years. My wife did not have the same luxuries I did growing up but she had the same values and goals which drove her to want to have a better life than she had. We are in our late 30's and have a combined annual income of 212K. According to the numbers we are technically not in the 1% but we live in a city in FL with 200K people and a median income of 37K, if We are both Engineers and if we were willing to move to DC, Silicon Valley or somewhere larger we would make over that magic 343K. We choose not to because we like our town and enjoy raising our family here. Now that the background is over.....As an Engineer, I do find it frustrating that while I design and develop multi-billion dollar defense systems, I make less than half of a suit on wall street that bets on futures and shorts stocks, however that is a career decision. So is the decision of my sister-in-law to quit her 35K a year job because the cut her $1300/mo social security benefit in half. At the end of the year my wife and I pay additional taxes that equate to roughly what she gets in her yearly return because she has 3 kids with an X con and won't work. That's BS!. Do I think some people are overpaid, absolutely but lets not forget who's paying the taxes while the other 40% of the population gets a refund or pays nothing. Our system is far from perfect but if you have the drive and intelligence you can live a very comfortable life in this country. I have a friend who can barely read but owns his own business with revenue over 250K a year. There needs to be adjustments I agree. $7/hr minimum wage is a joke and we need to start manufacturing again instead of off-shoring every product and call center we have. However the problem is in what we as a society value, not what we do. We don't value education so we pay our teachers a pittance of a salary but that education is the foundation of what is needed for a child to make a decent living. This was highlighted when the President made a speech last year and on one of the major news channels it said the speech was beyond the level of comprehension of most Americans, since most Americans only read and comprehend on a 10th grade level?! Doesn't high school go to 12th grade? All of this frustration starts with education and our individual choice on whether or not to embrace it.

    October 20, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. Spin

    One thing is sure, corporate greed has taken over the lives of everyone and as a result, country's economies are in trouble and it is not fair that 99% of the population suffers because of it.

    What most disturbs me, something that I have not understood since I was a child, is the amount of money that people in the entertainment and sports industry: actors, directors, start athletes, etc, get paid. It is horrendous to think that people who make a real difference in the world, such as doctors who save thousands of lives or those who discover cures to deadly diseases, the volunteers who work for NGO's in the most desperate and probably dangerous areas in the world, and so on, don't get even a smidgeon of recognition nor money that entertainment people get. It doesn't make sense! Why should actors be getting paid millions of dollars more than they or their families will ever need in their lifetime, when there are so many people around the world dying, starving and other good folks sacrificing themselves to make the world a better place. So that they can buy those 4 other mansions that they won't even live in, or have the fake tans, hair, nails, cars for their dogs or whatever other crap? It is not right. Something's gotta change. You would think that in the good sense of humanity, everyone would put all their resources, money and efforts into most importantly people's health, saving lives; instead most of the world's wealth is owned by so few and then wasted at the drop of a hat out of greed and indifference. It has to stop.

    October 21, 2011 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hmmmm

    The lady that says, "people should be able to print their own money," typifies the IQ level of these protestors. Most don't even know why they are protesting, or if they do have a reason it is similar to the one already stated.

    October 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. EricRafford

    Im doing an academic research study on the OWS movement, in any part of the country or world. Im gathering data for the paper via an online survey. If you can spare a few minutes its at http://www.EricRafford.com to see the survey.

    October 25, 2011 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
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