Show up today at noon at Cesar Chavez Plaza, 201 W. Washington St., for what could be the first day of a prolonged assembly, following the path of ongoing Occupy demonstrations in New York and other cities.
“The only thing that the protesters agree with Wall Street is on the word “enough.” They have had enough of this double-talk and they want their fair share of the pie that Wall Street created with the peoples’ savings, their pension plans, their homes and everything else of value that is now a basis for charging interest and making a profit in exchanging paper. A real GDP comprised not of “financial services” (trading paper back and forth between the same parties) but rather in performing real work, which is what the 99% do every day, is the only path to recovery. The people know it and they are going to demand it. Whether they get it or not, depends upon whether you show up at the events near you.” Neil Garfield livinglies.me
Protests Against Banks Rise in Number and Intensity in Major Cities Around the Globe
EDITOR’S REPORT: From Rome, Berlin, London, Frankfurt to Sydney, Australia and dozens of other countries in Asia, Europe, and across North America protesters are taking to the streets – a feat of improbable dimensions considering the ease of sitting back and using email, twitter and other social media. The message is the same — we want our lives back, now. The past bailouts of the banks started a fire of angst amongst people of all ages, employment, wealth and political stripes. The current focus on saving the banks instead of the people has thrown fuel on a fire that was raging in the hearts of all people whose lives have been dismantled by the workings of the Banks.
The Banks are fighting back but their guns are empty when it comes to the moral and practical choices in front of us. People are angry and fearful and they are right. As pointed out by Joe Nocera in his opinion piece this morning in the New York Times, the parallels with the 1930’s are too close for comfort. And the idea that government or Bankers can convince us to have “confidence” is proof that confidence has left the room. We have lost confidence in our economic system, and in our political system which is hostage to the financial giants that control far too much in ways that raise barriers to competition for people to assemble, bargain or negotiate collectively from strength or even demand fairness.
The only thing left is for people to take to the streets, something that has been predicted here for years along with many other writers on blogs, newspapers and magazines. As the movement grows, the weak responses from Wall Street and those who seem bent on voting against their own interests, are finally being answered — power is in the people. Government retains power only so long as people let it.
It is comforting to know that the relatively unknown organizers who started this protest on Wall Street could make such a difference. They know the power that comes from people assembling to petition for grievances. And they understand the need for discipline,patience and persistence. They understand that the message must be allowed to mature and grow before it becomes a list of demands, and that the size of the response to demands for reform will be directly correlated with the size of the protest. To grow the numbers and present a credible threat to those who would continue to exercise power at the expense of ordinarily people, they are using their formidable powers and talents using the experience of community organizing and promoting causes that we all can agree are right.
Of course the banks will claim anarchy, drugs, sex and other criminal behavior to prevent others from joining this movement. But the flash quality of this uprising obviously drowns out those narratives that only a few weeks ago were the theme of reporting and opinions. These are people who are working, who want to work and who want to work in jobs for a fair wage that will support their families. For the last thirty years, the mantra of a thriving economy has hidden the fact that practically nobody was seeing the benefit without going into an impossible amount of debt.
Wall Street used the pension money of the people to flood the market with cheap money which in turn fueled a spending spree by consumers who were not learned in the exotic consequences of fool-hardy commerce. We allowed the credit industry to rise accounting for nearly half of all of U.S. Gross Domestic Product — tripling from 16% to 48% in the span of only 30 years. Most people don’t understand GDP much less what goes into computing it — which is governed by mostly political decisions (a fact pointed out 50 years ago by Ludwig von Mises, in his Theory of Money and Credit).
The rise of “financial services” is merely a reflection of the fact that we have allowed Banks to insert themselves into everything we do and every financial decision we make. That the beneficiaries of this policy were the principals, traders and managers on Wall Street is easily apparent now — because median wages for everyone else stagnated in real dollar terms and went down when you include the new costs, taxes, and expenses of just living. The main new costs were credit and medical care — fueled by Banks funding those costs with the savings and pensions of the same people who are demanding the benefit from their forced “investment.” Instead of controlling costs by putting Banks and their emissaries as intermediaries between services and the consumption of those services, it merely added many layers of corporate bureaucracy and many layers of profit for those intermediaries — essentially creating a private tax with no apparent benefit to the country or to the people.
The way the Banks did it is with the issuance of “private currency” nominal derivatives carrying a notional value of more than $600 trillion, which is more than 12 times all the real money in the world. People are taking to the streets because they understand that there is not enough money in the world, literally, to pay for the Banks excesses, that there is no way to recover without taking power away from the Banks and those who serve the Banks in the corridors of power, — and mostly because they refuse to be passive partners in a system that takes their own money and uses it against them.
The foreclosure crisis is a symptom of the larger problem of excess Bank power and excess wealth siphoned away from the people of the planet. With unstoppable greed, they have jettisoned the self restraint that they said was sufficient to avoid this type of crisis, thus convincing the public and the regulatory agencies and the government law-makers that outside regulation was not needed. It was enough they said to have the threat of outside regulation and enough to rely on self-imposed restraint to avoid collapse.
The only thing that the protesters agree with Wall Street is on the word “enough.” They have had enough of this double-talk and they want their fair share of the pie they created with their savings, their pension plans, their homes and everything else of value that is now a basis for charging interest and making a profit in exchanging paper. A real GDP comprised not of “financial services” (trading paper back and forth between the same parties) but rather in performing real work, which is what the 99% do every day, is the only path to recovery. The people know it and they are going to demand it. Whether they get it or not, depends upon whether you show up at the events near you.
Protesters Take to Streets; Clashes in Rome
By RACHEL DONADIO and ELIZABETH A. HARRIS
ROME — In dozens of cities around the world on Saturday, people took to the streets, clutching placards and chanting slogans as part of a planned day of protests against the financial system.
In Rome, a protest thick with tension spread over several miles. Protesters set fire to at least one building and clashed violently with the police, who responded with water cannons and tear gas.
In other European cities, including Berlin and London, the demonstrations were largely peaceful, with thousands of people marching past ancient monuments and many gathering in front of capitalist symbols like the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Elsewhere, the turnout was more modest, but rallies of a few hundred people were held in several cities, including Sydney, Australia, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Protests were also held in New York and several other cities in the United States and Canada.
But just as the rallies in New York have represented a variety of messages — signs have been held in opposition to President Obama yards away from signs in support — so Saturday’s protests contained a grab bag of messages, opposing nuclear power, political corruption and the privatization of water.
Despite the difference in language, landscape and scale, the protests were united in frustration with the widening gap between the rich and the poor.
“I have no problem with capitalism. I have no problem with a market economy. But I find the way the financial system is functioning deeply unethical,” Herbert Haberl, 51, said in Berlin. “We shouldn’t bail out the banks. We should bail out the people.”
Another protester in Berlin, Katja Simke, 31, said that it was clear “that something has to be done.”
“This isn’t a single movement but a network of different groups,” said Ms. Simke, who was opposed to income inequality but also cared about climate change and atomic energy. “I’m really positively surprised by how well this came together.”
Saturday’s protests sprang from demonstrations in Spain in May and the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that began last month in New York. This weekend, the global show of force came as finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 20 industrialized nations meet in Paris to discuss global economic issues, including ways to tackle Europe’s sovereign debt crisis
In London, where crowds assembled in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the ubiquitous emblems of the movement were in evidence. “Bankers Are the Real Looters” and “We Are the 99 Percent,” read several placards and flags. One demonstrator, dressed as Jesus Christ, held a sign that said “I Threw the Money Lenders Out for a Reason,” a reference to an episode from the Bible.
Brief clashes were reported in London, where police were out in force with dozens of riot vans, canine units and hundreds of officers. But the gathering was largely peaceful, with a picnic atmosphere and people streaming in and out of a nearby Starbucks.
The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made an appearance at the cathedral and was met by hundreds of cheering fans, and was virtually borne aloft to the church steps, where he called the movement “the culmination of a dream.”
In Rome, Saturday’s protests were as much about the growing dissatisfaction with the government of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi — who narrowly survived a vote of confidence on Friday — as they were was about global financial inequities.
“We’re upset because we don’t have prospects for the future,” Alessia Tridici, 18, said in Rome. “We’ll never see a pension. We’ll have to work until we die.”
In contrast, protests in Berlin remained peaceful and upbeat, with music and even a little dancing on a warm, sunny day.
“I like the carnival atmosphere,” said Juhani Seppovaara, 64, a photographer and writer originally from Finland now living in Berlin. “But for me there’s a little too much populism, very complicated matters reduced to one or two sentences.”
In Sydney, several hundred protesters carried signs with slogans including “We Are the 99%” and “Capitalism Is Killing our Economy.” The atmosphere was lively, with a brass band providing music in packed Art Deco-style public thoroughfares outside the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of Australia in the city’s financial district.
In central Tokyo, where periodic rallies against nuclear power have been held since the March accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, about 300 protesters marched with signs through busy streets and heavy traffic, chanting “We’re With Occupy Wall Street!” “Down With the Rich!” and “No More Nukes!”
Two young men held a banner that expressed a somewhat apologetic solidarity: “Radioactivity Has No Borders. To the World From Japan: Sorry!” Another held a sign that read simply, “Let’s Complain More.”
“Even timid Japanese are finally starting to push for change,” said Miku Ohkura, 24, a college student in Tokyo, who said she had already been to about a half dozen protests for various causes in the last few months. She said that apart from being opposed to nuclear power, younger people were angry at being made to bear the brunt of Japan’s economic woes, with many unemployed or too poor to start families. “We all have different messages, but we’re all alike in that we want society to become more equal,” she said.
In Hong Kong, about 200 people rallied at Exchange Square, an open area near the International Finance Center, in the heart of the city’s banking and commerce district. Various groups staged sit-ins, protesting issues including growing income disparity and a political system that some demonstrators said was undemocratic.
Thousands of people protested in Hong Kong in March, criticizing the government then for not doing enough to help the poor. A far larger crowd marched through downtown Hong Kong on July 1, the anniversary of the territory’s return to China, over the widening income gap.
A 2009 report by the United Nations Development Report found Hong Kong had the greatest income disparity of the 38 developed economies it studied.
“It’s just embarrassing,” said Nury Vittachi, a Hong Kong resident who attended Saturday’s rally. The Hong Kong government likes to stress stability and prosperity, Mr. Vittachi said, but a widening wealth gap threatens those ideals.
“We’ve had decades of increasing inequality, culminating in the financial crisis,” said Jack Copley, 20, a student at the University of Birmingham who was protesting in London. “The best we can hope for,” he said, gesturing to the gathered crowd, “is that we can change the political climate to make it harder for politicians to rule in the interests of the few.”
Rachel Donadio reported from Rome, and Elizabeth A. Harris from New York. Reporting was contributed by Kevin Drew from Hong Kong, Nicholas Kulish from Berlin, Matt Siegel from Sydney, Australia, Ravi Somaiya from London, and Hiroko Tabuchi from Tokyo.
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