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Occupy: We Are the World

Far from being isolated protests at St Paul's Cathedral or in Wall Street, the Occupy movement is a truly global phenomenon – and it's still going strong

by Patrick Kingsley and Adam Gabbatt

It is the meme that launched a thousand camps. The protests in Wall Street, London and Oakland may be its flagships, but the Occupy movement is a global one, stretching across six continents, more than 60 countries, and sparking up to 2,600 demonstrations. There have been 10 camps in Britain alone.Occupy Dame Street photo from lusciousblopster

It is hard to say who started it. Occupy Wall Street, which began in September, was the first to popularize the term. But #OWS was itself predated by camps in Madrid, Athens, Santiago – and even Malaysia. The day most Occupy camps got going – 15 October – was first proposed because it marked the five-month anniversary of the Spanish occupation.

What unites them? A common rage at economic and social injustice and the feeling that "the 99%" are being shafted by society's richest 1%. But each protest has been different. Some were no more than rallies, and their demands differed from protest to protest – if they existed at all. Many protesters propose tweaks to capitalism – a Robin Hood tax, perhaps. Others want wholesale systemic change. Often, anger has a local twist. At St Paul's Cathedral, occupiers have precise demands for the City of London. In Chile, they attacked university fees; in Spain, youth unemployment.

In almost all cases, though, the camps themselves are a kind of demand – and a solution: the stab at an alternative society that at least aims to operate without hierarchy, and with full, participatory democracy. PK

Wall Street

The US's first occupation was eventually cleared from its New York base in Zuccotti Park on 15 November, two days shy of its two-month anniversary. The camp had swelled to around 200 tents before being cleared, and tens of thousands showed their support by joining in protests two days later, attempting (unsuccessfully) to shut down Wall Street and marching (successfully) over Brooklyn Bridge. Occupy Wall Street events have continued since, with students from the City University of New York occupying a college, and a drum circle being set up outside Mayor Mike Bloomberg's Upper West Side apartment. Lawyers for the occupation have been given until 9 December to file a fresh lawsuit, which protesters hope could yet allow them to re-occupy Zuccotti. AG

Vancouver

The Vancouver-based group Adbusters was the first to suggest occupying Wall Street, and, fittingly, Vancouver is also home to the largest Occupy movement in Canada. Some 4,000 people joined a march on 15 October that turned into the occupation of the lawn of a Vancouver art gallery. Protesters were evicted on 18 November, moving to Robson Square, near the city's court, but were moved on 22 November, leaving the occupation without a camp for the first time in five weeks. A small group of 100 protesters occupied a construction site in central Vancouver on Tuesday in a "non-GA backed action", but left after being ordered out by police and remain without a base. Occupy Vancouver is also involved in the west coast port shutdown. AG

Portland

The occupation was removed by police on 13 November, but demonstrations in Portland have regularly attracted thousands of people. During demonstrations on 17 November, a protester was pepper-sprayed by police at point-blank range. The moment was captured on camera, and until events at UC Davis and Seattle – where 84-year-old Dorli Rainey was pepper-sprayed by police – was set to become one of the most striking images from the protests so far. Protesters are continuing to hold general assemblies in Portland, and gather each Sunday to plan new actions. Portland police have promised to limit their presence at rallies held by the group, in part due to a lack of manpower. AG

Oakland

The occupation of Oakland's Frank H Ogawa Plaza has been the scene of the most violent clashes between police and protesters in north America. It first attracted widespread attention when former marine Scott Olsen was seriously injured as police cleared the camp on 25 October. Police have repeatedly used tear gas, rubber bullets and other non-lethal projectiles to suppress protests in Oakland, which have included a march that shut down the the city's port, costing millions of dollars in lost revenues and wages. The camp was finally shut down in a relatively peaceful operation by police on 14 November. Protesters are looking for new sites to occupy and are planning a "co-ordinated West Coast port blockade" for 12 December. AG

photo: Margaret KilljoyUC, Davis

Video footage from University of California, Davis, quickly spread around the world last week. A police officer is seen stepping over a line of seated, silent university students, before flamboyantly waving a pepper-spray canister aloft and then dousing each protester in an orange mist. The demonstrators were given this treatment on 19 November after refusing to dismantle their small camp, which had been erected the night before. Two protesters were hospitalized and have since been discharged, while UC Davis's police chief has since been suspended along with two officers. Seizing on the increased interest the pepper-spray incident has garnered, Occupy UC Davis staged a student strike on Monday, in protest against tuition fees and the university's funding practices. AG

Santiago

Led by charismatic 23-year-old Camila Vallejo, 25,000 Chileans marched in solidarity with Occupy on 15 October. But their own occupations started much earlier: since May, students against university fees have occupied more than 200 high schools. Unlike their European counterparts, the Chileans see themselves as having clear demands – free higher education – and their actions are having a demonstrable effect on politicians. Last week, the government proposed raising education funding by hundreds of millions of dollars. Even these concessions might not be enough for the protesters, who plan to reoccupy their schools in March, the start of Chile's academic year, if their demands for free education are not met. PK

Madrid and Barcelona

Spain's indignados hit the streets as early as 15 May. Centered on Madrid's Puerta del Sol and Barcelona's Plaça Catalunya, tens of thousands camped out in up to 30 cities, protesting, in some cases, for almost a month about the country's 43% youth unemployment rate. The success of the 15M movement, as it became known, prompted some indignados to call for a worldwide protest on 15 October, the date that sparked a wave of Occupy protests. In Madrid and Barcelona, hundreds of thousands gathered under the Occupy banner. No major occupations have since taken place, but many indignados are occupying empty buildings and sheltering families recently evicted from their homes. The day before Spain's general election last week, won by the conservative Popular party, a few hundred protesters gathered again in central Barcelona – but hardly any in Madrid. PK

London

Immediately evicted from their first target, the London Stock Exchange, Occupy London settled a few feet away on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. They were initially welcomed by the church hierarchy – but after a drop in cathedral revenue, the camp was asked to disband. This prompted the resignation of both Canon Giles Fraser, who supported the protesters, and the dean, who was felt to have mismanaged the situation. Criticized for harming the church more than the City, the occupiers then released a set of demands for financial and legal reform in the Corporation of London. Along the way, they expanded to a second site in Finsbury Square, and began squatting a building owned by financial services company UBS. PK

Frankfurt

Occupy camps have emerged across Germany – with more than 50 tents pitched outside Frankfurt's European Central Bank. There are two sites in Berlin alone, while 15 members of Occupy Hamburg recently disrupted a speech given in the city by the CEO of Deutsche Bank, Josef Ackermann. In early November, nearly 10,000 marched in both Frankfurt and Berlin in support of Occupy. PK

Rome

Thousands of protesters gathered in Rome on 15 October in what was the largest and most violent of the Occupy demonstrations in Europe that day. Riots broke out after a bomb went off, and an occupation – known locally as an accampata – later began outside a church in the center of the city. The camp is still going – but recently relocated to the site of the ruined Roman Baths of Caracalla, a mile down the road. PK

Tel Aviv

On 15 October, 1,000 Israeli protesters held a dance party in an affluent Tel Aviv street. It was called Occupy Rothschild Boulevard. But this was less Israel's answer to Occupy Wall Street and more the rebranding of a much larger campaign of civil disobedience that had mushroomed across Israel throughout the summer. From July onwards, two months before protests reached Wall Street, tent cities sprang up in protest at the rising cost of living – first on Rothschild Blvd, and then throughout 25 other towns and cities. In early September, 430,000 Israelis took to the streets in support, but by the end of the summer many had started to leave their tents. Police evicted the last few campers in early October. PK

Kuala Lumpur

Dozens of protesters have peripatetically occupied Dataran Merdeka, a square in Kuala Lumpur, since late July. Unlike many other occupations, Occupy Dataran is not a continuous occupation, but meets every Saturday night for a low-key "general assembly" – similar to those in London and New York – that lasts until the small hours. PK

Hong Kong

Sited underneath the HSBC bank, the 30-strong Occupy Hong Kong is not as large as many western camps but, unlike its counterparts, it has avoided upsetting authority. By limiting their activity to music and low-key political discussion rather than more ambitious civil disobedience, the protesters have remained untouched by police. PK

Melbourne

A few thousand marched through Melbourne in October, and many stayed to occupy a square in the city's business district. The camp has since had numerous run-ins with police, with more than 100 occupiers arrested. They have been moved on twice, and the remnants are still fighting eviction from the city's Treasury Gardens, the camp's third significant staging post. PK

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