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'Occupy' protests go global, riding wave of economic frustration

Protests in solidarity with 'Occupy Wall Street' occurred in US cities and around the world Saturday, sometimes drawing several thousand marchers. A key reason: Unemployment remains high, three years after a financial crisis in which banks got controversial bailouts.

By Staff writer / October 15, 2011

Occupy Wall Street demonstrators rally near Washington Square in New York on Saturday.

Mary Altaffer/AP

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The spirit of the "Occupy Wall Street" rippled around the globe on Saturday, as protesters called for economic and political change in places spanning from Japan and New Zealand to Italy, Britain, and the United States.

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The day of coordinated action underscored that common frustrations that are being felt by ordinary people around the world, particularly by a "lost generation" of young people who face poor job prospects.

While most rallies were small and barely held up traffic, the march in Rome drew tens of thousands of people and snaked through the city center for miles. Italy is among the European nations where concerns about government debt have led to unpopular austerity measures -- tax hikes and budget cuts.

The Oct. 15 protests were designed as a peaceful show of global solidarity for economic change, but in Rome some bands of militant youths took a violent turn, donning masks and setting cars ablaze or breaking bank and shop windows. Some injuries among both police and protesters were reported.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which formally launched on Sept. 17, itself began with inspiration from the "Arab spring" protests that spread over the past year through North Africa and the Middle East. The new wave of anger and protest is welling up in advanced democracies.

From New York to London and beyond, many of the frustrated citizens are young.

Unemployment remains high in much of the developed world, even though about three years have passed since the depth of the financial crisis, and the banking bailouts that followed. The jobless rate is above 9 percent in the US, 7.7 percent in Britain, and nearly 10 percent in the euro zone, according to data reported in August by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Younger workers tend to face some of the toughest challenges, since many of them have yet to find jobs after leaving school. The jobless rate for US teens is about 25 percent, for example, and some 15 percent of Americans between 20 and 24 years old are unemployed.

The signs carried in other cities around the world echoed ones seen on Wall Street. "Banks got bailed out. We got sold out," read the hand-written sign of one demonstrator in London Saturday.

Among the common themes heard Saturday were the need for jobs and the desire to get monied interests out of politics, so that governments better represent average citizens. The message "We are the 99 percent," associated with Occupy Wall Street, was visible in other nations as well.

A stunning sign of the times was recently reported by the US Census bureau: Nearly 6 million Americans between age 25 and 34 lived in their parents' homes last year. Many young people are delaying marriage or waiting to have children, because of the weak economy.

In the US, Saturday's protests spanned from New York City to the West Coast.

Protesters in New York were headed for Times Square after parading earlier to a Chase bank branch. Marchers throughout the country emulated them in protests that ranged from about 50 people in Jackson, Miss., to a few thousand each in such larger cities as Denver and Pittsburgh.

The global rallies got started Saturday in the Asia-Pacific. In Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, 3,000 people chanted and banged drums, denouncing corporate greed.

In Sydney, Australia, about 2,000 people, including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists, protested outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

Hundreds marched in Tokyo, including anti-nuclear protesters.

More than 100 people gathered at the Taipei stock exchange, chanting "we are Taiwan's 99 percent" and saying economic growth had only benefited firms while middle-class salaries barely covered soaring housing, education and health care costs.

In Paris, around 1,000 protesters rallied in front of city hall, coinciding with the G20 finance chiefs' meeting.

The Rome protesters calling themselves "the indignant ones" included unemployed, students, and retirees.

"I am here to show support for those don't have enough money to make it to the next pay check while the ECB [European Central Bank] keeps feeding the banks," said Danila Cucunia, a teacher from northern Italy.

In Madrid, around 2,000 people gathered for a march to the central Puerta del Sol.

In Germany, where sympathy for southern Europe's debt troubles is not widespread, thousands gathered in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig and outside the ECB in Frankfurt.

In London, around 2,000 people assembled outside St Paul's Cathedral, near the City financial district, for a rally dubbed "Occupy the London Stock Exchange".

Joe Dawson, 31, who lost his job as a product developer at Barclays Bank, said he had taken his two children to the rally to show them people had a voice.

"I'm not passive anymore and I don't want them to be. This is their future too," Dawson said. "I work four jobs part-time, I take whatever I can get."

Material from Associated Press and Reuters was used in this story.

IN PICTURES: Best signs of Occupy Wall Street protests

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