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eyes on the U.S.

Occupy Wall Street: America’s ‘Indignados’ Beginning To Garner Global Attention

After this weekend’s arrest of some 700 activists in New York, the so-called Occupy Wall Street squatters appear to be gaining strength – and media interest. France’s Le Monde notes the parallels with Spain’s ‘Indignados’ movement.

New York protestors take aim at America's richest 1%
New York protestors take aim at America's richest 1%
Sylvain Cypel

NEW YORK -- "It's growing," reads one placard. That certainly does appear to be the case. On Sunday, some 1,500 people gathered in what the Occupy Wall Street movement is calling ‘Liberty Square," a tent city located just two blocks from the U.S. Stock Exchange in New York City. The latest crowd was about three times the number of protestors present during the previous couple of days.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a lot to do with the new turnout. The day before, he sent police to arrest between 600 and 700 activists who had set out to cross the nearby Brooklyn Bridge. Within hours images of the arrests began making the rounds on the Internet. All of a sudden, media interest in the issue jumped several notches. One Fox News host accused the demonstrators of having "no purpose or focus in life."

Kyle Kneitinger, 22, was there. A large contingent of police, he explains, was on hand when the protestors arrived at the bridge. The police followed the group part way across the bridge – until the marchers realized that another group of police were advancing on them from the opposition direction. It was a trap.

Were they trying to disrupt traffic? "That wasn't our goal, but that is what happened," said Kneitinger. "We didn't know what else to do: some people sat down, others took off running. That's when they began beating us."

The brutality didn't last long. Once Kneitinger realized they were all going to be arrested, he approached a police vehicle to "turn himself in." His hands cuffed behind his back, he next found himself locked in a cell. "There were about 40 of us. We were all new to the movement." Police charged the electrical engineering student from Buffalo with "disrupting the peace, resisting arrest and blocking traffic." He was released, together with his companions, eight hours later.

By 11 a.m. Sunday, Kneitinger was back in Liberty Square. "What's happening here is wonderful," he said. Occupy Wall Street organizers have already found their rallying cry: "We are 99%." The movement considers its sole enemy to be the richest 1% of the American population and their lobbyists. "They feel invincible. All they're good for is earning profits' – while for the other 99%, daily life conditions are deteriorating, Kneitinger explained.

Spreading across the country

Today, the movement is undeniably expanding. Occupy groups have established a presence in the financial districts of more than 100 cities, from Houston to Chicago, from Philadelphia to San Francisco. In Boston, the American "indignados' (indignant ones) are camping out in front of the Federal Reserve building, America's central bank.

In New York, activists gather in a general assembly twice a day. They've organized into committees: one is in charge of finances, another oversees relations with Occupy groups in other cities. They've even set up an emergency health clinic, and come up with their own newspaper: the four-page Occupied Wall Street Journal.

At the same time, the makeup of the movement is evolving. Young professionals, not all of them with jobs, and university students now outnumber the original core of more hard-core activists. The movement is attracting growing interest among some of the country's better known progressive figures.

In Boston, protestors have met with Michael Moore and Cornel West, a well-known Princeton University philosophy professor. In New York, the Occupy Wall Street movement has invited economists Jeff Madrick, author of the recent best-seller "Age of Greed," and Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winner, to speak before them.

Also welcome are any and all comparisons to Cairo's Tahrir Square revolution, and Spain's indignados movement.

Read the original story in French

Photo - _PaulS_

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