70 are injured in Rome clashes
The predominantly peaceful protests are inspired by Occupy Wall Street
Julian Assange addresses the crowd in London
Calls for the protests began on Facebook and Twitter
Thousands of people across the world railed against corporate power, grinding poverty and government cuts Saturday as the Occupy Wall Street movement spread to the streets of Europe, Asia and Australia – and took a particularly violent turn in Rome.
Firefighters battled a blaze at an Interior Ministry building near Porta San Giovanni in Rome, the main gathering site of the Italian protesters taking part in the Occupy movement Saturday, said eyewitnesses who reported seeing a Molotov cocktail thrown near the building.
A spokesman for Mayor Gianni Alemanno, who condemned the violence, confirmed 70 people were injured, 40 of them police officers. No arrest numbers were available late Saturday.
Police said hundreds of anarchists in Rome moved in where peaceful demonstrators had gathered as part of the global Occupy movement. The anarchists – some wearing ski masks and belonging to a group termed “Black Bloc” – torched cars, broke windows and clashed with police.
“It’s been completely hijacked by these violent factions, and the police are nervous, and the situation is very tense,” Barbie Nadeau, a Newsweek correspondent, told CNN. “I myself saw at least – I would say – a dozen people who probably needed some hospitalization or some care – some stitches certainly.”
Two police officers were seriously injured and two young men lost parts of their hands in explosions when protesters torched cars, she said.
In London, protester Peter Vaughn, reflecting the mood of many in the crowd there, said people criticized financial institutions that have “gambled away our money.”
“We’re giving people a real voice against a government that just ignored us,” he said.
One protester in Belleville, France, referring to the country’s leaders, said government isn’t listening to the people and dialogue with them is impossible.
“You are not listening to us, whatever we do, however we vote, however we demonstrate. It does not give any result. Quite the opposite, as poverty and austerity plans continue. So we can’t go on like this so we are getting out and showing ourselves,” he said.
The protests spread amid the growing financial crises for several Western countries. Fina