Protesters worldwide on Saturday launched demonstrations against bankers, financiers and politicians. Organizers accuse them of ruining global economies and condemning millions to poverty and hardship through greed, Australia's News.com.au reported.
Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement that started in September, protests started Saturday in New Zealand, continued in Rome, and are planned to ripple round the world to Alaska via Frankfurt, London, Washington and New York.
Riot police in many cities are reportedly gearing up for the protests as well. Cities such as London and Athens have seen violent confrontations with demonstrators this year, but it was impossible to say how many people would actually turn out due to organizers' reliance on social media websites.
"I've been waiting for this protest for a long time, since 2008," Daniel Schreiber, 28, an editor in Berlin, told Reuters. "I was always wondering why people aren't outraged and why nothing has happened and finally, three years later, it's happening."
New Zealand and Australia were the first countries where demonstrations were staged, where some 3,000 protesters gathered peacefully in Aukland, while most of traditionally reserved Asia was quiet.
"I think people want real democracy," Nick Carson, a spokesman for OccupyMelbourne.Org, told reporters as about 1,000 gathered in the Australian city.
But few, if any, in the Occupy movement seem to have a clear answer as to just what 'real democracy' is.
In London, WikiLeaks founder and self-branded information anarchist Julian Assange addressed a sea of people outside Paternoster Square behind a line of riot police. As Assange tried to quiet the crowd, rows of protesters fell to their knees screaming "Let Jesus speak!"
“This movement is not about the destruction of law, it is about the construction of law,” Assange told those assembled without bothering to explain what new law was being constructed. “I just wanted to say, we are all individuals.”
Ronan McNern, 36, an activist working to support the Occupy movement, insisted to a Newsweek reporter that the protesters did have a plan, but when pressed had no details.
"But there is a plan," He said while dizzyingly insisting the movement was leaderless on purpose. “We need a new movement. That movement doesn’t know what it is yet, but this is the beginning.”
But while the protests began peacefully, AFP reported the protests turned violent in Rome, where demonstrators turned on police after smashing bank and storefront windows and setting cars on fire in a historic piazza.
Italian news agency ANSA said 70 people were hurt in the clashes, three of whom were in serious condition.
AFP said the violence appeared to stem from an isolated group of protesters among tens of thousands of largely peaceful demonstrators who marched in Rome yesterday. As the violent clashes raged, some peaceful protesters were reportedly forced to take refuge on the steps of St. John Lateran basilica and within the church itself.
As chants of “Here Comes the Ethical Revolution,” “We Are the 99 Percent,” “Cameron Must Go,” and “Goldman Sachs Is the Work of the Devil” resounded around the world, few had any idea where the protest was going - including the protesters themselves.