On Oct. 15, the many streams of local protests that have been welling up worldwide over the past half-year hope to join in one mighty river of global action.
In more than 950 cities in 80 countries, according to 15October.net, movements akin to the Occupy Wall Street effort in the US will be taking their concerns public – whatever those concerns may be. In New York City, protesters plan to occupy Times Square and transfer their accounts from large national banks to smaller local banks perceived to be less tainted by the foreclosure crisis. In places as varied as Budapest, Tokyo, Helsinki, and Lansing, Mich., there will marches, rallies, concerts, and cultural events.
Just as the protests are all over the map, so are the causes. This, however, does not seem to trouble those who plan to take part.
It is a day meant to “assert the ‘think global, act local’ catchphrase,” notes Spanish activist and blogger Santiago Carrion, who posted his explanation of the movement on Friday. Each action, he writes, "will have its own theme or proposal, be it the privatization of Universities in Chile, the continuation of nuclear energy projects in Japan after the catastrophe at Fukushima, corporate greed in the US, widespread corruption and the destruction of the welfare state in Greece, Spain and the UK, or the worsening deforestation of the Amazon in Brazil.”
He does see a connection. These different issues are a reaction to the same process, he says, “which can be loosely defined as an appropriation of politics worldwide via deregulatory financial practices.”
15October emerged from the platform of Democracia real YA (True Democracy NOW!), which originated in Spain in May, according to the International Business Times. The movement is a reaction to the European debt crisis and the push for austerity measures that hit working people.
The website 15October.net, which is asking for the day to be one “united for global change,” launched during the summer, well before the Occupy Wall Street movement took off in the US. This kind of global mass action is the next, logical step in the growth and development of a meaningful movement, as protests have been spreading from country to country, says Fordham University Prof. Heather Gautney. She spent Friday morning on Wall Street observing the standoff between Occupy demonstrators and the NYPD in Zuccotti Park, which was tense but ultimately resolved without violence. There is a delicate balance between authority and the challenge this movement represents, and how both sides handle that may determine its future, she says.
“The popularity of the movement and the media buzz, in addition to the global call, is producing increased interest,” she says. Her expectation is that new protesters all over the world will turn out on Saturday.
In the US, altercations between local law-enforcement officers and protesters increased during the past week, with images of police arrests on the nightly news in many cities, along with at least one amateur video of police pressing a demonstrator to the ground with his baton.
Still, Professor Gautney expects Saturday’s events to be largely peaceful and nonviolent, even as they test the boundaries of police tolerance. Otherwise, she says, “the movement will become stale…. They [the protesters] will likely continue to keep their occupations and demos fresh, and at least slightly disruptive, in order to keep their presence alive and in the headlines.”
Police in Los Angeles are prepared for whatever might occur, says LAPD Commander Andrew Smith. Between 600 and 700 LAPD officers are on duty, available to be tapped at any moment if disruptions occur, he says. Plainclothes officers shadow members of the crowd who they identify as potential trouble, he says. "We try to engage them in conversations before anything gets out of hand,” he says.
Organizers in the Los Angeles area expect a crowd of about 3,000 on Saturday. Commander Smith notes, with a laugh, that the LAPD rule-of-thumb is to expect about “10 percent of what the group organizers say will attend.” However, he says, the massive publicity surrounding 15October may in fact draw a bigger-than-usual crowd.
15October does seem to have tapped new recruits. College senior Rob Gordon is headed to the all-day events scheduled in downtown Los Angeles, along with three friends from school. He says he is excited to take part in his first mass political action.
“For so long, it was not cool to be political,” he says, "but these actions are changing that.”
Some 20 fellow students at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia have begun to meet on campus, he says, to discuss ways to get involved. Saturday’s march and rally in front of City Hall are a start, he says, However, he adds, “I’m not planning to drop out of school – just get engaged.”