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Thousands of people flooded downtown New York City on Wednesday for the Occupy Wall Street movement’s largest protest to date. With labor unions and students joining en masse, tens of thousands marched from Foley Square to Zuccotti Park (renamed “Liberty Plaza”), the site of the protest encampment where hundreds have been sleeping for nearly three weeks.
Iman Elsayed: “I am a registered nurse in New York. I’ve been coming here for the last two weeks, before work, after work, during lunch break, to support the Occupy Wall Street, to stand up against what’s going on. We’re bailing out the banks, bailing out Wall Street, while working-class and middle-class Americans and New Yorkers suffer and struggle to pay our bills and to find employment.”
Robin DiAngelo: “Never in the history of our world has this much wealth been concentrated in so few hands, and it’s just out of control. Finally people are waking up and saying 'no.' And personally, I find it really insulting when I hear the term 'class warfare.'”
The march was peaceful, but New York City Police Department officers later beat a handful of protesters with batons after they toppled a police barricade in an attempt to march down Wall Street. Police say a total of 28 people were arrested. Smaller protests against Wall Street are continuing or being planned across the country in cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, St. Louis and Seattle.
The Occupy Wall Street march evoked immediate comparisons to economic justice and anti-austerity protests worldwide, including the ongoing demonstrations in Greece. On Wednesday, thousands of people gathered in Athens as part of a general strike.
Protester: “Since the country implemented the austerity package, since the bailout, civil servants have lost part of their wages. This is an opportunity for the Greek people, whether in the public or in the private sector, to fight this, to deny this logic that we must bow our heads all the time to save the country and show patriotism. We believe, as workers, that patriotism is to respond with actions.”
Hundreds of people rallied in Kabul today for a protest on the eve of the 10-year mark of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Demonstrators carried antiwar signs and pictures of victims of U.S. attacks.
Protester 1: “We have gathered here to condemn the occupation of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. We demand the immediate withdrawal of American forces from our country. We will continue to gather even 1,000 times, and urge America and its allies to leave Afghanistan sooner.”
Protester 2: “Now it is 10 years on from this occupation by the U.S. and its allies in Afghanistan. Our people suffered a lot of instability, and poverty increased. There are no other benefits.”
The Palestinian bid for statehood has moved a step closer to a vote before the United Nations General Assembly. On Wednesday, the U.N. group UNESCO voted to grant Palestine membership, a move that will put the bid before the full assembly in the coming weeks. The UNESCO vote came over the fierce objection of the Obama administration, which has tried to quash the Palestinian bid despite publicly claiming to support a Palestinian state. On a visit to the Dominican Republic, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blasted the vote and said the United States may even cut off funding to UNESCO in retaliation.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “I find it quite confusing and somewhat inexplicable that you would have organs of the U.N. making decisions about statehood or quasi-statehood status while the issue has been presented to the United Nation. With respect to the question about the United States’s response, we are certainly aware of strong legislative prohibition that prevents the United States from funding organizations that jump the gun, so to speak, in recognizing entities before they are fully ready for such recognition.”
New details have been released on the Obama administration’s “kill list” of U.S. citizens authorized for killing or capture overseas. According to Reuters, a secretive panel of top government officials determines who can be slain or captured, and then informs the president of its decision. The panel is an offshoot of the White House’s National Security Council. The panel was behind the decision to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in a CIA drone attack in Yemen last week.
In California, prison rights activists are claiming up to 12,000 prisoners are now taking part in a renewed hunger strike protesting alleged inhumane conditions. Inmates at Pelican Bay and other state prisons resumed their fast last week to demand swifter action on promises they had won to end the first hunger strike in July.
A coalition of environmental groups has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop preliminary construction on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would move oil from Alberta’s tar sands fields to Texas. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Nebraska Resources Council and Friends of the Earth allege work is already illegally underway to clear areas for the pipeline even though it has not been approved.
In campaign news, former Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin has announced she will not seek the Republican presidential nomination next year. Palin had been considered a likely Republican contender for the 2012 nomination since she and Arizona Senator John McCain lost the presidential election in 2008.
In California, at least three people were killed and seven others injured in a shooting in Cupertino on Wednesday. At least four of the surviving victims were left critically injured. Santa Clara County Sheriff Rick Sung described the attack.
Lt. Rick Sung: “What we know is that there was a meeting earlier this morning where the suspect showed up, and then he briefly left the meeting, came back, now armed with a rifle and a handgun, and that’s when he opened fire on his colleagues.”
A new study has found openly gay males are 40 percent less likely to be granted job interviews than their heterosexual counterparts. Published in the American Journal of Sociology, the study is said to be the first of its kind to investigate discrimination against gay males seeking jobs. Researchers conducted the study by sending two nearly identical resumes to more than 1,700 white-collar job openings across the United States, with the lone difference being that one mentioned the applicant’s membership in a gay organization while in college.
President Obama hosted Honduran President Porfirio Lobo at the White House on Wednesday, the first time a Honduran head of state has visited Washington since the June 2009 coup ousting then-President Manuel Zelaya. Obama said the visit marks a new phase for Honduran-U.S. ties.
President Obama: “Today also begins a new chapter in the relationship between our two countries. Two years ago we saw a coup in Honduras that threatened to move the country away from democracy, and in part because of pressure from the international community, but also because of the strong commitment to democracy and leadership by President Lobo, what we’ve been seeing is a restoration of democratic practices and a commitment to reconciliation that gives us great hope.”
In Bahrain, a civilian trial has been ordered for 20 medics sentenced to lengthy prison terms by a so-called special “security court” last week. The group of doctors, nurses and medical workers were given sentences ranging from five to 15 years for treating demonstrators during anti-government protests earlier this year. It is unclear if the order for a retrial will lead to a completely new trial or merely an appeal of the long sentences.
The Dalai Lama has been forced to cancel a trip to South Africa after China exerted pressure to prevent his entry. The Dalai Lama’s office says South Africa failed to issue him a visa in time for him to attend the 80th birthday party of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. At a news conference, Tutu denounced South African President Jacob Zuma.
Desmond Tutu: “Our government, representing me — representing me! — says it will not support Tibetans who are being oppressed viciously by the Chinese. Hey, Mr. Zuma, you and your government don’t represent me. You represent your own interests. And I am warning you, I really am warning you, out of love, I am warning you like I warned the nationalists, I am warning you: one day we will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government.”
The Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs has died after a long bout with cancer. He was 56 years old. In a statement on its website, Apple said, “[We] have lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an incredible human being.”
The civil rights leader Fred Shuttlesworth has died at the age of 89. Shuttlesworth led the struggle in Birmingham, Alabama, to end segregation. He was the last of the civil rights movement’s “Big Three,” founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference along with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy. In a statement, the civil rights leader and Georgia Rep. John Lewis called Shuttlesworth “the last of a kind,” adding, “When others did not have the courage to stand up, speak up and speak out, Fred Shuttlesworth put all he had on the line to end segregation in Birmingham and the state of Alabama.”