Disenchanted citizens promise to fill the streets of financial districts en masse this weekend as they grow weary of bailing out banks. EurActiv Greece contributed to this article.
While people in the US, the UK, and many European countries including Belgium, are mobilising for mass street protests in their cities this Saturday, people in the capital of the EU will put on a comparatively smaller show.
500 protesters expected in Brussels
In comparison to the 4,000 people expected to arrive at the London Stock Exchange, just over 500 people are expected to arrive at Rue Wiertz outside the European Parliament in Brussels.
Belgium has been recently hard hit by financial scandal after it emerged that the CEO of the nationalised Dexia bank has been living at a Brussels hotel three days a week for the past three years.
The bank downplayed Pierre Mariani’s actions, saying he paid for the room by himself. Moreover, figures in the Belgian press indicate that the Dexia bailout will cost €5,000 per taxpayer.
Trade unionists in Brussels claim they have tried to get in touch with the Occupy Brussels movement to show their support but have not had any luck finding a spokesperson.
Patricia Grillo, a spokesperson from the European Trade Union Confederation said there was “no boss, between brackets” because the protestors probably do not want to align themselves with any group or political party to get more people involved.
Asked about the significance of the protests, a spokesperson for the European Commission answered: “How does that concern us?”
The lack of support from EU policymakers has upset followers of the movement who say it highlights why people feel compelled to make themselves heard on the street.
“That really pinpoints why there is such an explosion of activity, and that is the idea that people in places of influence are not worried about what citizens think,” Naomi Colvin, a supporter of Occupy the London Stock Exchange, the UK-arm of the protest, told EurActiv.
The predicted turnout figures in Europe are paltry compared to the number of participants in the US. An umbrella group for the entire movement stateside, Occupy Together, has a total 99,260 followers.
In the last few days, US news media report that the protests have escalated and in some parts, grown personal. Yesterday, thousands of protestors targeted the houses of several billionaires on the Upper East Side of New York.
The London protests, dubbed Occupy LSX, are unlikely to target individuals’ homes, says Colvin, as this has not been agreed at the movement’s General Assembly which has been planning the march.
“It is a bad idea to personalise this. That is a misrepresentation of what we are talking about. We are talking about a systemic problem,” Colvin said.
Colvin explained that the movement had many goals, among which, that action is taken against investment banks and credit rating agencies who allowed sub-prime mortgages to be wrapped up in AAA-rated Credit Default Swaps, swelling a bubble of toxic assets.
Observers lament that the man on the street does not know what they are protesting about but Colvin insists that laymen do understand the actions taken by banks which caused the crisis.
“There is a real danger in assuming that this is too complex for people to understand. It’s like selling medicines that were not labelled properly. Would we want that to happen?” she said.
Since the crisis not a single person or institution has been either indicted or convicted for misleading clients on CDS. Financial analysts in the US believe that banks like Goldman Sachs, which have been selling CDS linked to sub-prime, won’t face criminal prosecution related to these sales because such a move could threaten the financial system.
“The real question is not whether some people are put in prison but whether democracy is restored and the financial sector serves the real economy again. They should be taxed like any other economic sector and become truly accountable to the people,” Sven Giegold, a German Green told EurActiv. The German Greens have called on their electorate to participate in Saturday’s protests.
After the protest, some countries in Europe will enter a phase of general strikes. Colvin hopes a strike in the UK on 6th November will underline the movement’s motives.
This week Greece has been inundated with protests against further austerity measures involving wage and pension cuts and 30,000 planned redundancies.
According to EurActiv Greece, ongoing protests are bringing Athens to a standstill, literally, as a 10-day strike by Greek Petroleum prevented drivers from getting fuel yesterday. Buses, trams and metros stopped purely in protest at the cuts.
These strikes will culminate in a general strike planned for 19 October with many banks, petrol stations, public servants (from municipal administrations to government departments), teachers and students threatening to participate.
- 15 Oct.: “Indignados” protests across European cities.
- 19 Oct.: General strike in Greece.
Public Transport halted as Greek strikes spread
“The recession is deepening, unemployment has rocketed to appalling heights, the economy is collapsing, the living standards of our people has been pushed back decades back,” the civil servants’ union ADEDY said. “Employees and society are being driven to despair as the (government) pursues its policies that are creating the economic deadlock.”
The barrage of punishing reforms comes after Greece acknowledged it would miss its deficit-cutting targets in 2011 and promised international debt inspectors to take further corrective action in 2012.
The country is surviving on C110 billion ($151 billion) in rescue loans from other eurozone members and the International Monetary Fund, and would default next month unless it receives the next bailout payment of C8 billion ($11 billion) to be considered for approval next week.
Matthias Mors, a European Commission debt inspector, said in a newspaper interview published Thursday that they were aware of the difficulties the government faced in imposing so many reforms in such a short space of time.
“But I would say that we are at a critical moment, where Greece has to convince the international community and the other euro area members that it is willing and able to reach the objectives it has committed itself to,” the daily Kathimerini quoted him as saying.
Mors said Greece needed to overhaul its bloated public sector, but that it had agreed with the government that this should be done over the course of five years.
“We are not saying that there should be large-scale dismissals,” he said.
Outside parliament, hundreds of transport workers and protesting hospital staff — some sporting surgical equipment and wearing oxygen masks — staged anti-governmeht rallies that ended peacefully.
Elsewhere, protesting Culture Ministry employees sealed the entrance to the Acropolis and other ancient sites and museums, while protesting power workers occupied administrative offices of the Public Power Corporation to try and disrupt the distribution of property tax notices.
And local government workers stormed a nationwide meeting of mayors, scuffling with organizers. Their protest has halted garbage collection for 12 days in the Greek capital — causing piles of trash to build up on street corners.
State television and radio journalists, lawyers, hospital doctors, teachers, customs and tax officers, seamen and municipal workers have also either walked off the job or are planning strikes in the coming days. Taxi drivers are expected to stay off the streets Friday during the second day of the public transport strike, leaving private cars as the only transport in Athens. Source
Hit the pocket books and the profiteers might listen.
Greece really knows how to protest. The people in Greece stand together, which is what makes their protests more effective then some others around the world. They also do not give up.
They are not about to loss their pension, jobs, or social services.
The rest of the world could use their ideas in their own protests. United We Stand, divided we fall.
We, all around the world are fighting for the same things.
Greeks are definitely an inspiration to the rest of the world. The greedy bankers and bad corporations, helped put them in the position they are in as well as the IMF and probably Free Trade.
Free Trade has caused more poverty and job losses then any other agreements ever implemented around the world. Which leads back the the US and so do the bad bankers as well.
These protesters hot the homes of the profiteers.
Protesters who say the state’s tax on millionaires should not expire marched on the Upper East Side apartments of five of the city’s richest men Tuesday.
They carried giant checks for $5 billion – how much they say the state will lose when the tax dies in December – made out to “the top 1%” and tried to give them to each tycoon.
The target list: News Corp.CEO Rupert Murdoch, conservative billionaire David Koch, financier Howard Milstein, JP Morgan ChaseCEO Jamie Dimon and hedge fund titan John Paulson.
“(Gov.) Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature are about to give this man and his billionaire friends a $5 billion tax cut,” the crowd of several hundred chanted at each address.
“We are the 99% and we are here to say no more tax cuts for the billionaires while we cut schoolteachers, firefighters and cops.”For the rest of the story and video go HERE