The protesters stopped traffic in busy Midtown Manhattan streets and provided a new spectacle for tourists and New Yorkers amid the bustle of iconic Times Square.
It was one of the largest demonstrations yet from the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has camped out in a Lower Manhattan park since Sept. 17 to protest finance industry bailouts, unemployment and income inequality.
Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, protests on Saturday started in Asia and rippled through Europe back to the United States and Canada. Protesters fed up with economic inequality took to the streets in cities from Washington, Boston and Chicago to Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto.
At least 70 people were injured after a peaceful rally in the Italian capital Rome descended into street battles. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called the violence a “worrying signal” and said the perpetrators “must be found and punished”.
Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno blamed the violence on “a few thousand thugs from all over Italy, and possibly from all over Europe, who infiltrated the demonstration”.
In Toronto, a couple of thousand people gathered peacefully and started to set up a camp in one of the city’s parks. Protesters in Washington marched through the streets.
A huge rally in Madrid had a more festive atmosphere. Tens of thousands of people filled the Puerta del Sol Squareon Saturday evening, the BBC’s Sarah Rainsford reports from the Spanish capital.
In Portugal, 20,000 marched in Lisbon and a similar number in Oporto. In Greece, about 2,000 people rallied outside parliament in Athens and a similar number reportedly turned out in the second city, Thessaloniki.
In New York, where the movement began when protesters set up camp in a Lower Manhattan park on Sept. 17, organizers said the protest grew to at least 5,000 people as they marched to Times Square from their makeshift outdoor headquarters.
The action in New York was largely peaceful, police said, in contrast to the scene in Rome, where violence erupted between police and protesters. “There are always a few knuckleheads, but for the most part everyone’s happy,” said Deputy Inspector Daniel Mulligan.
The protesters chanted, “We got sold out, banks got bailed out” and “All day, all week, occupy Wall Street.” They arrived in Times Square at a time when the area is already crowded with tourists and Broadway theatergoers.
American protesters are angry that U.S. banks are enjoying booming profits after getting bailouts in 2008, while many people are struggling in a difficult economy with more than 9 percent unemployment and little help from Washington.
Police said three people were arrested in Times Square after pushing down police barriers and five men were arrested earlier for wearing masks. Police also arrested 24 people at a Citibank branch in Manhattan, mostly for trespassing.
Citigroup released a statement Saturday evening that said, “A large amount of protesters entered our branch at 555 La Guardia Place around 2:00 PM today. They were very disruptive and refused to leave after being repeatedly asked, causing our staff to call 911.
The Police asked the branch staff to close the branch until the protesters could be removed. Only one person asked to close an account and was accommodated.”
At about 8 p.m., police arrested 42 people for blocking the sidewalk. Protesters complained they had no place to go with a wall of police in riot gear in front of them and thousands of demonstrators behind them leaving Times Square. [via Huff Post, BBC and The Wall Street Journal]