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. Mr. Smith

    Everybody sing along "All we are saying is give sustainable infrastructure a chance!" Alright Lennon's version is easier to sing but you get the idea.

    October 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon Samuel

      I think "All they are sayin' is ... you give them your money, don't require them to work for it and you pay off their credit card debt" These idiots take the Me generation concept to a whole new level of narcissism.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. fddf


    October 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Luke

    reminds me of a song...

    It's a crime
    Share it fairly
    But don't take a slice of my pie

    gimmie gimmie gimmie, but don't take anything from me,
    tax the other guy, its only fair he pays a higher % than i do cause he has more. what a bunch of lazy backwards thinking degenerates,

    work hard to get ahead. fulfill any contracts you sign. and for goodness sake, you don't have to buy new stuff all the time (how many iphone 4s sold this month? must have been to the rich only).

    are bankers and stockholders greedy? yep. are average citizens just as greedy? yep. (duh)

    October 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • ellid

      Your lack of compassion for people who have worked hard all their lives and will never get ahead while others who have done nothing but trash the global economy sip champagne is disgusting.

      October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon Samuel

      I would argue the banks and shareholders are not greedy in a comparative sense. the banks provide capital and services to fuel capialism which results in economic growth and jobs. The greedy are the liberals in government who can never cut spending but keep increasing it to retain greater power. Government imposes high taxes, regulations and overhead without really adding much of value. The government gets more profit from a gallon of gasoline than Exxon-Mobil. These people in the streets should be protesting against the failure of governments to foster economic growth which fuels jobs.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      I agree completely! If you don't like the greed of the bankers, then don't support them by taking out loans!! Most loans are taken out because of greed so why blame the rich completely? What does it mean when you take out a loan? It means you want something you don't have the money for! To me that sounds like GREED.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      @ Ellid So it's wrong for the rich to be greedy because they are rich, but it's ok for a poor or middle class person to be greedy? What makes those hard working people never get ahead? Maybe it's because they give all their money to banks because they are greedy and want what they cant pay for.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Elena

    Didn't this originally start in Madrid, Spain on May 15? It was a totally peaceful demonstration then.

    October 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • us1776

      OWS still is a peaceful movement.

      Arsons and violence was started by ultra-rightwing anarchists who infiltrated some of the protests.


      October 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      Prove it Us1776, as usual you can't.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brad

    We the people, they are not anarchists. They only want equality, freedom. And not to be opressed by the wealthy. And dont want to serve other people greed...

    October 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Smith

      We stand for a rational well-ordered sustainable and fair society. Anarcho-capitalism is the enemy.

      October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Richard

    My wife and I live on 380K-420k a year. We have a large house, a boat, and four cars.. Even with an okay income we have lots of expenses for our house and cars. For example an oil change on our BMW's is over 100 dollars. All I am saying is that we all have different incomes and different expenses. Not sure what its like to protest, other then a quick glace from a towncar, but it doesnt really look like fun, esp when it rains. If you feel like you should have more, then ask yourself if you have always worked your hardest your whole life. I bet you have not. You could have always forgone an hour of tv to work more...

    October 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • rave0n

      Many people work very hard and still live paycheck to paycheck. Why does this reality elude you?

      October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kris

      Are you freaking serious Richard?? I don't think you will find anyone giving a crap about your expenses that you cause for yourself. "An oil change on our BMW is over $100" – a fool and his money are soon parted. Luckily you have lots of reserves and live in a McMansion.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anglican

      What about those without jobs? What about those trapped in the lower classes because there is not a middle class anymore? You and I work hard, but we are also lucky, and someone gave us a chance.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ituri

      forgoing an hour of tv on a minimum wage job when you're already exhausted from your TWO jobs, neither of which offer medical benefits, is not going to solve the economic problems. The rich have been getting a free ride in BUYING our legislation. Taxes for the rich are at a record LOW, while the minimum wage and pay in general has stagnated for 30 years now. If you don't like your $100 oil change, ever thought to do it yourself? Most of us don't "go in" to get our oil changed, because we can't afford a normal one at $25, and it isn't for a lack of work. The idea that you are poor only if you are lazy is a pipe dream people like you dream up to make yourself feel better about being rich, and you ARE rich, in a time where the US economic class gap is larger than that of Dickens "A Christmas Carol." So sorry you have to put a piece of coal on your fire, Mr. Scrooge, but we're sick of working ourselves to death while you complain your LUXURY ITEMS are expensive to maintain.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Julie

      it costs me over $100 for an oil change for my Honda Civic and you have at least 6 times the income I do, so I don't understand your point.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • FRAN


      October 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Anglican

    Greedy men with Congress on their side. Could not have a more dismal combination

    October 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. station2

    Boycott Billionaires!
    Boycott Big Business!
    Boycott Bail outers!
    Buy small and local!!!

    What would happen if everyone boycotted banks, mortgage companies, credit cards, gas companies and retailers for 1 week… or even 1 month?! You want to make an impact, hit the big guys in THEIR bottom line! You want to make a statement that they will feel, hit them in THEIR bottom line!!

    Buy with cash (or barter) and buy local!

    And then vote for someone who is NOT a Republican OR a Democrat! That’ll get the contentious politicians asses in gear!

    October 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      or you could just pay for what YOU spend!

      October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      "would"..."if"...problem with that is it is an impossible scenario. It will NEVER happen. Well, unless you are FORCED to by a dictator who nationalizes everything...

      October 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • KillKenny

      And how did Big Business start out? as mom-pop stores. So when we eventually the mom-pop stores will be big business. So we then would have to boycott them?

      October 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. tcp

    You've got Assange on your "side". That is awesome! Especially considering he IS the "1%" you are protesting against...

    October 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. OMG

    stop buying corporate products, investing in corporates, working for corporates!

    start growing, making, sharing, repairing, recycling!


    October 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcp

      Wait a minute. Are you ORDERING me to do those things? Not very free-thinking of you. What if I don't want to do all of those things? What if there are things I think YOU should do? Can I order you to do them or does that smack of tyranny? hmmmm....not as easy as it seems, is it?

      October 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vernon Fueston

    It's interesting to contrast coverage of the "occupy" movement with the Tea Party. With the Occupy Movement we are told not to worry about the ridiculous and uninformed things the protesters say. We must focus on them protests as a symptom of global unrest. With the tea party we were told every gaff, every distasteful sign, every intemperate remark and drilled by CNN on how the group was a fringe. The Tea Party hardly proved to be a fringe. These people are like just what they appear to be ... loons.

    October 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kevin

    soooo they're against "corporate greed", yet individual greed is allowed to run rampant (I want my debts wiped out, no more loans, blah blah blah) ....yeah that makes complete sense.

    October 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. fddf


    October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • rave0n

      Go back to sleep...

      October 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ajgorm

    Maybe we should take all the money and power from the 1 % and we tell them what to do.. Then make the conservatives work for free or go to jail ! TO THE LEFT ->

    October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • UhYeaOk

      The conservatives already do most of the work and you lefties already take more than you contribute.

      October 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mikey

    What about the public sector unions, state workers, teachers, etc. Their pensions are under water and tax payers will be footing the bill. Their under water because of the gifts provided by politicians who the unions financed.

    October 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
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