All photos of the Columbus Circle protest by Allison Kilkenny
Demonstrators across the globe in more than thirty countries called for the end of austerity over the weekend. Banging pots and pans, hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded the streets of Spain and Portugal as part of “Global Noise” day, carrying placards saying, “We don’t owe, we won’t pay.”
“The idea is to make some noise so they hear us but we already know that these leaders don’t have ears for us,” one of the protesters told Press TV.
“None of us pushed the banks to lend huge sums of money to greedy property speculators, yet we are being asked to pay for other’s mistakes,” another protester said.
Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced that the government would be cutting an extra 13 billion euros in 2013. In total, the government plans to cut 150 billion euros from the budget over the next three years.
“They are taking away the health system. They are taking away our basic rights and that’s not fair. Those who started the fraud should pay for it,” said one protester.
“This government will kill Portugal, and if we don’t do anything, it will be worse,” said Ivan Rodriguez, a protester in his 30s in Lisbon, where others banged on drums and clapped their hands to make as much noise as possible.
“I’m fighting to preserve my job and those of others,” he added.
Another slogan, “Let the troika go to the devil,” made reference to the country’s international creditors—the so-called troika of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
In New York City, hundreds of activists gathered at Columbus Circle to promote the same message, and also for an educational panel about debt, followed by a march around the city.
Strike Debt and Occupy Wall Street handed out copies of the Debt Resistor’s Operations Manual, a project of the wonkier sect of Occupy that seeks to educate citizens, specifically about how debt affects everyone, the history of things like housing debt and what they can do to protect themselves if they’re currently in debt, and also gives them the tools to create a credit system that serves the people and not just the obscenely wealthy. (The manual is available as a PDF here.)
Speakers representing countries from around the world addressed the crowd before the march began, including activists from Mexico’s Yo Soy 132, Japan’s Occupy movement and the Canadian debt resistance.
One speaker received strong support from the crowd when she remarked, “debt is the new colonialism.”
Another protester, in talking about the ongoing austerity protests in the United States, Canada, Egypt, Spain and Greece said, “All our grievances are connected.”
Sabu, an activist from Japan, assured the crowd that protesters in his home country are resisting, even if the media have done a poor job of covering demonstrations. In particular, he noted there have been strong protests against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank conference that took place in Tokyo.
“People are fighting,” he said.
Many students currently buried under student loans expressed their frustration and desperation when using the People’s Mic and in smaller breakout groups following the debt panel. The nation’s student loan debt burden is massive, having recently exceeded a trillion dollars, which is more than the nation’s credit card debt.
At one point during the march, boisterous protesters appeared on the big screen in Times Square as they banged pots and pans, a protest strategy originally adopted from the casserole marches, and which is, according to Occupy Wall Street, “a means to call attention to problems facing the community that the power structure is not addressing, using a method that is hard to ignore.”
Though all the Global Noise targets were chosen by local chapters, the theme running through all he events is the “targeting of political and financial elites who are held responsible for destroying our communities and the planet, resonating the ongoing wave of anti-austerity protests in Europe and around the world.” At the same time, Global Noise stated that it wants to be a “symbol of hope and unity, building on a wide variety of global justice and solidarity, assuring that together we will create another world.”
Caleb Maupin from the International Action Center told RT in an interview, “Austerity is a crime against the people,” and says that austerity has struck the U.S. as well as countries like Spain. With banks being rewarded while people suffer, “we are going to rise up and demand a change to that situation,” because “people don’t have to pay for the crisis the bankers created.”
For more on anti-austerity movements, check out Nation publisher and editor Katrina vanden Heuvel on the EU's support for a Robin Hood tax.