Parallel actions inspired by New York City’s “Occupy Wall Street” continue to spring up across the United States. As of Friday morning, the website “Occupy Together,” a hub for nationwide events in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street, reported gatherings in 847 cities. On Thursday, activists kicked off the “October 2011” protest by occupying Freedom Plaza in Washington, D.C.
Lydia, Protester: “We need to stop investing in privatization. We need to start worrying about the 99 percent of the population. We need to start investing our money into social welfare programs and worrying about the middle to lower class, because we are not truly a great nation until all of us are strong and all of us are prospering.”
Marilee Eusebio: “Well, I’m so appalled at the lies that go on at every level, and this was something I could do. Some of my friends say that it’s just a replay of what we did during Vietnam. But, you know, that did have some effect, and I’m really hopeful that this and the people at Wall Street, that this will actually move us to do something.”
As in New York City, demonstrators have come to D.C. from across the country, and some are taking part in their first-ever political demonstration. One woman who traveled from Kansas held a sign that read: “Lost my job, found an occupation.”
In San Francisco, protesters are defiantly resisting a police attempt to break up an “Occupy” encampment in front of the Federal Reserve Bank. On Thursday, dozens of officers in riot gear surrounded the camp and removed tents, sleeping bags and other items belonging to protesters. But organizers say more than 100 people are still remaining in the area, despite losing their belongings.
At the White House, President Obama weighed in on the Occupy Wall Street protests for the first time. Speaking at a news conference, Obama said he understands the protesters’ “frustration,” but ultimately believes in the financial sector.
President Obama: “I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel, that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place. So, yes, I think people are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works. Now, keep in mind, I have said before, and I will continue to repeat, we have to have a strong, effective financial sector in order for us to grow.”
President Obama has given backing to a new proposal that would impose a five percent surtax on income above $1 million. Senate Democrats announced the measure this week as an alternative to Obama’s proposed tax increases on incomes above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for families. At his news conference, Obama said he’s “fine” with the alternative approach.
The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to a trio of recipients: Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee. The three women were cited “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.” The trio of laureates follow only a dozen other women among 85 men to have won the prize over its 110-year history.
Fighters with Libya’s governing National Transitional Council have launched a new assault on the town of Sirte in an attempt to wrest control from loyalists of ousted leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi. Many civilians have been trapped in clashes over the past three weeks. Gaddafi, meanwhile, has released a new audio message urging supporters to rise up against the NTC. At a meeting in Belgium, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he thinks the Libyan conflict is nearing its final stages.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “It’s clear that the end is in sight. Gaddafi forces are fighting for a lost cause. The threat to civilians is fading away. The recent positive developments in Libya are irreversible.”
Hundreds of Afghans marched through Kabul on Thursday in a protest marking the 10th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Protesters chanted slogans including “No to Occupation” and “Americans Out,” while holding pictures of slain war victims.
The United Nations says the death toll from the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Syria has now topped 2,900. The figure marks an increase of 200 from the previous estimate. Syrian human rights activists say the toll is in fact higher and that some 30,000 people have also been imprisoned since protests began earlier this year.
Tensions are on the rise in the Occupied Territories amidst a wave of attacks by Israeli settlers and troops. Israeli police say they have arrested suspects accused of vandalizing and setting fire to two Palestinian mosques. The mosques were hit as part of a settler-backed “Price Tag” campaign, a vow to target Palestinians in response to the dismantling of “unauthorized” outposts outside of the major Israeli settlement blocs that already carve up Palestinian land. The settlers recently extended their vandalism to an Israeli army base in the West Bank, an incident that may have spurred the Israeli military to finally take action. No one had been arrested in any of the three previous arson attacks in the West Bank over the past year. Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and stun grenades at a crowd of Palestinian youths who had gathered to protest an Israeli demolition of a Palestinian home. A member of the family owning the property denounced the Israeli military.
Halima Al Khatib: “They raided us around 6:00 a.m. Since the morning, occupation forces and their intelligence forces came here. They imposed curfew to prevent anyone from reaching the house, and they isolated us in the house and beat up the men. Then they demolished the house. I say God will take revenge at them.”
At the White House, President Obama weighed in on U.S. ties with Pakistan, saying he agrees with Admiral Mike Mullen’s recent claim that Pakistani intelligence has ties to the militant group blamed for a series of attacks inside Afghanistan.
President Obama: “What we’ve tried to persuade Pakistan of is that it is in their interest to have a stable Afghanistan, that they should not be feeling threatened by a stable, independent Afghanistan. We’ve tried to get conversations between Afghans and Pakistanis going more effectively than they have been in the past. But we’ve — we’ve still got more work to do. And there is no doubt that there’s some connections that the Pakistani military and intelligence services have with certain individuals that we find troubling. And I’ve said that publicly, and I’ve said it privately to Pakistani officials, as well.”
The standoff over public education in Chile has intensified with the largest police crackdown on massive student protests in months. On Thursday, police used water cannons and tear gas in an attempt to remove protesters from a main plaza in the capital, Santiago. Tens of thousands of students had marched to the plaza after talks broke down with the Chilean government.
New Zealand is warning of an environmental disaster over fears of an oil spill from a stranded container ship. The vessel, named Rena, hit a reef earlier this week and has already set off a lengthy oil slick. A New Zealand official said the accident could prove to be the country’s “most significant maritime pollution disaster in decades.”
California has pulled out of talks between the attorneys general from all 50 states and some of the nation’s largest banks over the banks’ foreclosure abuses to force thousands of people out of their homes. California Attorney General Kamala Harris says she will not agree to a settlement with the banks because the proposal under discussion is “inadequate” and fails to hold bank executives accountable for their practices. Harris says she will negotiate a settlement with the banks outside of the joint track pursued by the other states.