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."

Rekyjavík, Iceland

Halldor Sigurdsson was at a rally in solidarity with the global Occupy movement in Rekyjavík, 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. Kevin Johnson

    As a trader and business owner, I can see all sides of this argument. My hope is that rather than trying to push through any type of rash legislation or political pandering, I'd like to see the rise of a new, truly independent political party. One that can actually give both Republicans and Democrats a run for their money, and scare them out of this gridlock that we now find ourselves in.

    What you are seeing in the streets right now in major cities all around the world is a major shifting of ideology, not simply some interest group ramping up their campaign. Its still a morphing thing, and they're assimilating ideas and educating each other about the ways of the economy every day.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • annoyingcnn

      What were seeing is a bunch of POS with nothing better to do.

      Support these People Occupying Streets (POS)! through their ignorance and aura of dumb they shall accomplish THIS:

      Guarantee liberals never to be elected in the next 20 years. I'm all for it!!

      October 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kasey Drexler

      Well spoken. I agree fully.

      October 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Frank

    I bet they sell a ton of weed at these things!

    October 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  3. teresa


    October 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mojobutta

    Protests are important.But let's face it...The rich get richer, the poor poorer. That's not going to change. What can change is the knowledge that far greater riches than money exist right now. Love, wonder, creativity, education, music, play, adventure, romance, peace, health and so much more. People should stop focusing on money. All the money in the world didn't save Steve Jobs. He seemed to be a descent man, but facts are facts. Money can't save you if you get sick. Be healthy and be happy.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • CarlosinTx

      And all the love in the world didn't save him either. You know what I am sick and tired of Steve Jobs, he is part of the problem too. Apple has over $80 Billion sitting in accounts NOT creating jobs. What is with that? All corporate profits should either be distributed to the shareholders or put back into creating more capital, which translated into jobs, or forfeited.

      October 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigNumber5

      Between Steve Jobs and Dennis Ritchie, the latter had the most profound day to day effect on peoples' lives.

      October 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Pankaj Gupta

    What they are protesting against is quite obvious, more so than in any other protest.

    They are protesting against greed, corruption and control of rich and big corporations to suck money out of financial systems. They can't tell you what rule to make and how to regulate banks or financial systems, that is what greedy people and governments have to figure out, but they can generate a strong opinion which can eventually force these people to correct things.

    You simply don't need any mathematics to understand that while millionaires have grown their income/assets 10 folds the average person has lost 1/3rd of their income/assets. Add to this the fact that with this change the economy is now no more moving. Why? because these rich peoples are sucking up money using different arbitrary rules and financial acrobatics.

    A common man uses most of his money as a consumer, mostly more than 80%, while these people who collect money in multi-millions and multi-billions use a tiny fraction of that money and rest remains invested to attract more money without greasing the economy. A consumer driven economy is bound to fail when your main consumers have no money and only sellers have money.

    Today, the situation is that sellers have all the money and very little need to buy anything, while buyers have no money to buy anything.

    I think these protests are mere starting points the real revolution will happen in next 2-3 years, when middle class will be left with no other objective but to revolt.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pankaj Gupta

      middle classes normally take a while to react to things, but by now most of them have an idea where things are heading 🙂

      October 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • annoyingcnn

      Yea, communism is the way. Good job Habib.

      October 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris HOnry

      Pankaj, do you ever notice how no one truly knows American history and they spout off all this Right-Wing patriotic brainwashing slogans? Less than 10% of the colonists wanted war with England, only the rich few didn't want to pay the crown their taxes. This country was started by the rich, for the rich, to keep the rich rich and in power. The wrote "All men are created equal..." yet no states let Blacks nor women vote, and only land owning white men could vote. It still works the same way- rich people pay for campaigns and lobbyists, their candidates keep the laws bent for them.

      October 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • CarlosinTx

      Oh Chris how much you don't know. The American colonies were rife with taxation by the crown. the rich were the ones who may have felt it more, but to say only 10% of the country wanted to buck the king, is absurd. Taxing the tea, which is what the Insurgents who dressed like Indians and boarded the ships in Boston harbor and threw the East India Trading Company's tea into the harbor were protesting the forced usage of the King's tea and the non allowing of growing or distribution of American grown tea. Get with the program, it reached everywhere. The teabaggers have Palin history lessons don't listen to them.

      October 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Byrd

    If the 99% of us got rid of the 1% we'd have a pretty nice world. Carry on. Carry on.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • blake

      You would have made an excellent member of the Khmer Rouge.

      October 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. s

    Why am I not surprised the Republicans are diggin their heels on an Obama jobs plan even though they are constantly blaming him for the economic mess.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Ben

    Perhaps Marx & Engels were correct after all. At least Groucho & Harpo were!

    October 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  9. blake

    Occupy: a small group of Marxists and former hippies getting an inordinate amount of leftist media attention.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dean

    Anarchists, they're always waiting for any excuse to destroy things. Liberal media looks and looks until they find one Tea Party activist make a stupid racist remark. Now you got Occupy Wall Street, daily destroying things, you can see the way thing thing is going to go, people will get killed and the demons will run wild amongst this group.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • No Tea for Me Please

      ...it's all been destroyed already by the 1% and their Tea Party lapdogs

      October 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris HOnry

    PEOPLE FINALLY SEE that this small group of rich is controlling the world's economies. They increase their profits by any means, like laying off hard workers and moving the factories to countries where there is no enforcement of environmental policy, no benefits, pennies on the dollar wages. They are stealing from the rest of us by paying for campaigns and lobbyists, then those they get elected keep the borders open for illegals to come work for crap wages and no benefits so no Americans can make a living doing jobs like landscaping, construction, restaurant work. Every time an illegal goes to the county hospital and doesn't pay (because they don't earn enough) the rest of us pay because the state either pays or the hospital goes out of business and is lost to the rest of us.

    October 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • annoyingcnn

      People see how dumb you are with that hilarious monologue. That's all we're seeing.

      Good job!

      October 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Big_D

    You better watch out for this. If they were the people you claim they are they would be at home with a bong. They are spreading world wide and growing rapidly. I hope they start targeting folks like the Koch brothers for some real violence.

    October 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • BillV

      And Soros and Buffet

      October 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • CarlosinTx

      Correct. I am happy the Koch brothers have to die...as we all do. I just pray it happen very much sooner than later. And the protesters should go to Lincoln Center and force them to remove David Koch's name from the David Koch theater formerly Ny State Theatre. http://www.clydefitchreportDOTcom/2011/03/the-evil-stench-of-david-h-koch-and-corrupting-arts-philanthropy/

      October 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. The Ghost of Bear Bryant

    OWS in the U.S. has inspired a world-wide movement for social and economic justice. And just when I thought people of conscience in the U.S. had given up trying to do anything. Bravo to the people in OWS.

    October 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • annoyingcnn

      Yes, they inspired all the other losers sitting on the couch to sit on a street.

      October 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kevin Johnson

    Are you a paid troll annoyingcnn? How can I get in on that?

    October 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Satisfying the Kochs

      ...he gets paid by the Koch brothers

      October 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • annoyingcnn

      Just tired of the libs having all the blogrolls, so I got in on that! 🙂

      October 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. popcorn

    Cut the UNION WAGES?!?! Perhaps.... There's no plan B. If there is.... SHOW UP !!! JUST SHOW UP ON UNITED NATION!!!!

    October 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
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