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700 arrested on Brooklyn Bridge in Vancouver-inspired protest

An estimated 700 persons were arrested on New York City's Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday evening. It was the latest development in a weeks-long protest inspired by Vancouver-based Adbusters.

The movement, calling itself #OccupyWallStreet, has been gathering followers and momentum since mid-September, despite little mention of it in mainstream US media.

In a September 19 post on its website, Adbusters wrote about "A Tahrir Moment on Wall Street":

#OCCUPYWALLSTREET was inspired by the people's assemblies of Spain and floated as a concept by a double-page poster in the 97th issue of Adbusters magazine, but it was spearheaded, orchestrated and accomplished by independent activists. It all started when Adbusters asked its network of culture jammers to flood into Lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens and peaceful barricades, and occupy Wall Street for a few months.

The idea caught on immediately on every social network, and unaffiliated activists seized the meme and built an open-source organizing site. A few days later, a general assembly was held in New York City and 150 people showed up. These activists became the core organizers of the occupation.

The mystique of Anonymous pushed the meme into the mainstream media. Their video communique endorsing the action garnered 100,000 views and a warning from the Department of Homeland Security addressed to the nation's bankers. When, in August, the indignados of Spain sent word that they would be holding a solidarity event in Madrid's financial district, activists in Milan, Valencia, London, Lisbon, Athens, San Francisco, Madison, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Israel and beyond vowed to do the same.

There is a shared feeling on the streets around the world that the global economy is a Ponzi scheme run by and for Big Finance. People everywhere are waking up to the realization that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which speculative financial transactions add up, each day, to $1.3 trillion (50 times more than the sum of all the commercial transactions). Meanwhile, according to a United Nations report, "in the 35 countries for which data exist, nearly 40 per cent of jobseekers have been without work for more than one year."

On its Occupy Wall Street page, Adbusters on Saturday was offering live video and Twitter feeds.

As with the protests in Tahrir Square, social media were playing a major role in spreading information. In Canada, Brooklyn Bridge was trending on Saturday night. (In the US, OWS did not appear to be trending at all.)

The protest was being covered by Reuters, The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, and The Guardian.

A tweet by The Associated Press said that most of the 700 arrested protesters had been given summonses for disorderly conduct and then released.

Similar movements have been appearing in the twittersphere, including OccupyBoston, OccupyLosAngeles, OccupyChicago, Occupy Houston, and OccupyVancouver, which was planning a demonstration on Sunday, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m., at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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