Occupy Wall Street spirit spreads through Pacific Rim
REPORTING FROM SEOUL -- The protests against corporate greed born last month on New York’s Wall Street spread to the world’s Asia-Pacific region Saturday, with similar marches staged in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
The weekend protests were organized as part of what activists described as a global movement involving nearly 85 countries worldwide.
In Sydney, Australia, hundreds of activists chanted anti-big-business slogans in front of the nation's central bank headquarters in the heart of the financial district, with protesters declaring that the events were “only the start,” according to Australian media reports. They pledged that the actions could go on for weeks, even months.
Some held up banners reading “You can’t eat money” and “We are the 99%,” a reference to the percentage of workers who do not share in lucrative annual big-business bonuses.
In New Zealand, more than 500 activists joined marches in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, Radio New Zealand reported.
About 600 people joined rallies in Tokyo, marching on the headquarters of Tepco, the utility that owns the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which suffered a major meltdown after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The protests, generally aimed at stratospheric corporate bonuses and greed perceived in the global financial system, may soon move to other cities in the region, largely fueled by concerns over the financial sector's lack of public accountability.
On Saturday, protesters in several other Australian cities said the culprits included politicians and “fundamental problems with Australia’s democracy.”
“The planet can’t go on with this unsustainable level of inequality,” Mark Goudkamp, a Sydney organizer, told Australian reporters. “There needs to be a fundamental overhaul of how our economy works; we need to challenge those who are the most powerful who control the global economy and have an enormous influence on elected politicians.”
There were few reports of arrests and no violence at the protests.
In the U.S., the rallies began Sept. 17 in New York, where hundreds of activists have been arrested. The protests have spread to such cities as Denver, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco.
In Seoul, members of 30 civic groups banded together to protest the “super-wealthy” with protests across the capital, including the national assembly building.
But not every planned rally came to the fruition envisioned by activists. In Brisbane, Australia, where organizers expected more than 2,000 at one rally, only 100 protesters showed up, according to early reports.
-- John M. Glionna
Photo: Occupy Hong Kong protesters rally Saturday outside Hong Kong Exchange Square. Credit: Kin Cheung / Associated Press