Occupy Wall Street As A Global Phenomenon


Occupy Wall Street has swept the globe and is generating enormous sympathy and interest in Asia as well as Europe. The spread of Occupy Wall Street to Asia ? especially Japan ? is further evidence that it is a mistake to dismiss a global groundswell of anger over the flow of money from banks to governments that concentrates wealth in the hands of the 1 percent.

In Japan, the protesters gathered at the swanky Roppongi Hills complex where Goldman Sachs maintains offices. Bloomberg News columnist William Pesek was there, reporting signs saying “No Greed,” “Taxiderm the Rich” and “Stop Vampire Squids,” a reference to Goldman Sachs, which Rolling Stone colorfully characterized as a “great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity” (See “The 1 percent meets 2 billion in search of answers,” Daily Report).

According to Pesek, Asia suffers from the same “rich get richer, poor get poorer” syndrome as the West. Japan, though historically conservative, is an egalitarian society. But that is changing as deflation worsens and workers get lower pay, fewer pension benefits and fewer jobs. People traditionally offended by conspicuous displays of wealth are even more offended when they believe they are not getting a fair share of the wealth.

In Pesek’s words, “Those who want to dismiss Occupy Wall Street should consider that a couple of billion Asians, or more, aren’t about to.”

Mostly young protesters have organized demonstration in many sites throughout Asia, including, but not limited to:

Australia: 100 Occupy Melbourne protesters were forcibly removed by police from the city square. They had been peacefully camped out there protesting corporate greed since October 15. Police had fenced the area off and refused to let others join the group.

Taiwan: In Taipei, 200 protesters marched for social justice and against economic inequality in front of a luxury mall. One college student said he was angry about the wealth gap and lack of jobs for young people.

Hong Kong: On October 5, several dozen young protesters gathered outside the stock exchange and US Consulate’s office to protest mass arrests in New York and other US cities. Placards read: “Tax the Rich” and “Bail out the people, not the banks.” One protester said: “Hong Kong and Wall Street are very similar. The government only serves the rich and other policies are a disaster for working people.”

New Zealand: On October 15, hundreds of protesters marched in several of New Zealand’s major cities. Placards read: “We are the 99 percent” and “Stop Corporate Greed.” A 2006 international study found that 1 percent of that country’s population held 16 percent of the wealth.

India: The land of Mahatma Ghandi, the birthplace of mass, non-violent protest, which is, nevertheless, “one of the world’s most unequal countries,” has demonstrated its version of Occupy Wall Street in Mumbai, a city of “staggering inequalities of wealth.” There the protests are directed at politicians rather than bankers, as the vast majority of Indians are oblivious to financial markets.