Rome turns violent as wall street protests spread globally


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ROME -- Protests against widening income disparity and the worsening recession took place across western Europe, Asia and the United States on Saturday as the Occupy Wall Street movement spread around the globe from its epicenter in New York.

Rome's demonstration turned violent, contrasting with events elsewhere.

More than 500 marchers wielding clubs attacked police, two banks and a supermarket in Rome, Sky TG24 reported. Authorities responded with tear gas and water cannon.

In London, police barred protesters from entering Paternoster Square, home to the London Stock Exchange. In Frankfurt, Germany, 5,000 marchers gathered by the European Central Bank headquarters, firing soap bubbles from toy pistols with plans to camp out, German television reported.

In the shadow of London's St. Paul's cathedral, protesters waved banners with slogans that read "No bulls, no bears, just pigs" and "Bankers are the Real Looters."

"The financial system benefits a handful of banks at the expense of everyday people, the taxpayers," said Spyro Van Leemnen, a 27-year old public relations agent and a core member of the London demonstrators. "The same people who are responsible for the recession are getting away with massive bonuses. This is fundamentally unfair and undemocratic."

The Occupy Wall Street rallies started last month in New York's financial district, where people have been staying in Lower Manhattan's Zuccotti Park to protest inequality and advocate higher taxes for the wealthy.

And on Saturday night, thousands of demonstrators protesting corporate greed filled New York City's Times Square, mixing with gawkers, Broadway showgoers, tourists and police to create a chaotic scene in the midst of Manhattan.

"Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!" protesters chanted from within police barricades. Police, some in riot gear and mounted on horses, tried to push them out of the square and onto the sidewalks in an attempt to funnel the crowds away.

The demonstrators had marched north through Manhattan from Washington Square Park earlier in the afternoon. Media outlets reported arrests taking place during the march, including fewer than 10 people wearing masks, and in Times Square. News organizations were not immediately able to verify those arrests with police.

Earlier in the day, demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York City paraded to a Chase bank branch, banging drums, blowing horns and carrying signs decrying corporate greed.

Marchers throughout the U.S. emulated them in protests that ranged from about 50 people in Jackson, Miss., to about1,500 who gathered and marched past the banks in downtown Orlando, Fla.

Across the Atlantic, the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest drew about 4,000 people, according to its organizers. Police didn't provide a number.

Fueling the demonstrations in some countries was a grim economic forecast by the International Monetary Fund, which cuts its forecast for global economic growth to 4 percent this year and next, compared with June forecasts of 4.3 percent in 2011 and 4.5 percent in 2012.

Protests in 50 German cities and Paris were peaceful. In Berlin, 6,000 took to the streets. Germany and France at the heart of efforts to find a solution to Europe's financial crisis.

Thousands also marched in Madrid with placards criticizing bank bailouts. In Zurich, Switzerland, about 200 protesters coalesced on Paradeplatz, playing "Monopoly"and sipping free coffee from a stand. The protests were peaceful.

Across the globe in Taiwan, organizers drew several hundred demonstrators, who mostly sat quietly outside the Taipei World Financial Center, known as Taipei 101.

Levin Jiang, 22, an English major at Taipei's Fu Jen Catholic University, joined others marching and singing the communist anthem L'Internationale in front of the Hermes watch shop in the mall of what was until last year the world's tallest building.

"I'm angry about the unjust capitalist society," he said. "I'm anti-capitalism."

In Seoul, South Korea, 600 people converged on the city hall after changing the location of protest as police banned the rally Saturday, Yonhap News reported. They urged clamping down on speculative capital and demanded lower college tuition.

In Hong Kong, about 200 people gathered at the Exchange Square Podium in the city's central shopping and business district, according to Napo Wong, an organizer.

"Hong Kong is heaven for capitalists," said Lee Chun Wing, 29, a community college social sciences lecturer in Hong Kong. "Wealth is created by workers and so should be shared with the workers as well. Capitalism is not a just system."

In Tokyo, where morning rain may have deterred some from joining three planned protests, more than 120 people demanding an end to nuclear power generation marched from Hibiya Park to the offices of Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of a crippled plant that's spewed radiation, causing the evacuation of thousands after Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami.


Associated Press contributed.


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