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One year on, Occupy Wall Street is back. Protesters have taken to the streets in Manhattan and beyond to mark the movement's first anniversary. While their numbers look smaller, the drive to address economic inequality appears strong, especially with the US election approaching. Here's GlobalPost's ongoing look at the Occupiers' new global push.
Occupy-style protests have erupted all over the world. From London to West Papua, here’s a look at how the movements are faring.
Two months before Mexico’s July 2012 presidential election, there are no more protesters holding vigil in front of the gleaming panels of Mexico City’s stock exchange.
Last winter, as young Mexicans set up protest camps, they talked about creating an alternative society centered on “civic duty.”
But nobody seemed to listen.
One of the protest banners read: “The state can only sustain itself through crime.” That sentiment should have resonated in a country that’s seen violence spike since the government deployed troops to combat drug cartels in late 2006.
But despite scattered demonstrations, the Occupy movement here has failed to gain a widespread following in Mexico.
That might stem from the fact that, after decades of slow growth and cyclical crisis, Mexico’s economy is finally moving forward. In the last 10 years, the Mexican economy grew faster than that of Brazil, the juggernaut of South America.
“There’s an emerging middle class in Mexico … you see more people coming out of poverty, declines in inequality,” said Shannon O’Neil, an expert on Mexico at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“I don’t see a huge role for the Occupy movement as a formal organization [in Mexico],” she said.
At the height of the protests, a sign sat on the sidewalk outside the stock exchange that read, “Only 1 percent of the population is owner of everything you see. Get outraged! Get Organized! Raise your voice!”
A young woman in a collared dress shirt and sweater shuffled by, white ear buds plugged in her ears, fiddling with the screen of her iPhone. She didn’t even seem to notice the sign.
— By Nathaniel Parish Flannery in Mexico City, Mexico
One country ahead of the curve of the “Occupy” brand of social protest is Chile.
Many Chileans had already been in the streets demonstrating furiously for six months when the first Occupy event was organized in the capital of Santiago in October of last year.
The unrest has been led by the nation’s students — in particular the photogenic 23-year-old communist leader Camila Vallejo — who are calling for a shake-up of the university system they say excludes the poor.
But the protesters are also angry about a range of other issues, including plans to construct dams in Patagonia, low wages and Chile’s deep wealth inequalities.
The students have won several tactical victories, including the removal of two education ministers in six months. They also saw the 2012 education budget increased by $350 million, a tax overhaul to raise an additional $700 million, and a promise to give grants to more low and middle-income students.
But they are still intent on realizing their main objective: free, high-quality university education for all.
The government, meanwhile, has yet to budge on that key issue.
In April, it proposed shaking up the system that finances students’ university studies in a bid to replace private banks with state agencies. But that was quickly rejected by Gabriel Boric, president of the Student Federation of the University of Chile, who complained that the reform still involved loans rather than grants.
Now, after a relative lull since the New Year, the protests are kicking off again. On April 25, thousands marched in Santiago. Although the event was largely peaceful, some demonstrators clashed with riot police.
That fresh round of demonstrations is due to climax on May 21, when Sebastian Piñera, Chile’s deeply unpopular conservative president, will give his state of the union address.
With the government on the back foot, and the issues that prompted the discontent unresolved, few expect the protests to end any time soon.
— By Simeon Tegel in Lima, Peru
OCCUPY SOUTH AFRICA
South Africans are epic protesters: catchy songs, the trademark “toyi-toyi” dance and a strong sense of justice, all derived from years of brutal oppression.
But the Occupy movement failed to catch on here or anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa. Disappointingly small groups of mostly middle-class white youth gathered in Johannesburg, Cape Town and a few other cities on the Oct. 5 global day of action. But from there it fizzled.
Small scale protests in South Africa have continued, but largely over an issue known here as “service delivery” — the provision of basic services such as electricity and clean water to impoverished black areas of the country.
Residents of Kya Sands, a Johannesburg township, blocked roads last month during an anti-government protest over the provision of state-subsidized housing. They said they were tired of living in tin shacks, and that they have been waiting years for promised houses.
“We must get houses today. If no houses today, we’ll burn one car here,” a young protester said at the time.
In recent months, a growing number of these demonstrations have involved protesters burning down municipal buildings, including schools and community halls, and the houses of local councilors.
Eight policemen are now on trial for the death of Andries Tatane, a school teacher. Police beat to death Tatane during a march to protest poor delivery of basic services in the Free State town of Ficksburg. Tatane’s death shocked the country, and was a reminder of the disturbing level of violence that often surrounds protests in South Africa.
Another protest this past year more closely resembled the Occupy brand. Julius Malema, recently ousted president of the ruling African National Congress party’s youth wing, on Oct. 27 led a “march for economic freedom.” Wearing a Che Guevara-style beret, Malema led thousands of supporters on foot from downtown Johannesburg to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, via the Johannesburg Stock Exchange — a journey of nearly 40 miles.
But while the discontent was real, this “economic freedom youth mass action” was considered to be mostly about political maneuvering ahead of an ANC elective conference later this year.
Newspapers the next day reported that only a few hours after the protest, Malema jetted off to Mauritius, in business class, wearing a slick purple suit, to party and drink expensive champagne at a wealthy friend’s wedding.
— By Erin Conway-Smith in Johannesburg, South Africa
Indian anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare and the coterie of supporters now known as “Team Anna” are striving to keep their budding mass movement alive, a year after Hazare's first hunger strike against graft brought tens of thousands of usually apathetic middle class Indians to the streets.
The problem? Anna fatigue, mostly. One guy with a little white cap can only keep television viewers interested for so long, and hunger strikes are notoriously low on vigorous action.
But Team Anna seems to have missed a trick from Eric Hoffer's seminal primer on mass movements: If your movement has a concrete goal, you can be derailed either by achieving it or by failing to make any progress, and it's all too easy to get bogged down in technicalities. In targeting corruption, Team Anna had a sufficiently amorphous and abstract enemy. But as soon as they outlined their solution — a new law known as the Jan Lokpal Bill, designed to set up a national ombudsman's office — they pretty much sealed the movement's fate.
Before long, Manmohan Singh's Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was pushing a Lokpal Bill of its own. Shouts and slogans gave way to nitpicking comparisons of different pieces of legislation. The halo over Hazare was tarnished by his association with the far Hindu right, and Team Anna itself fractured over whether or not the movement should campaign against the Congress in the recent state elections.
In the latest spat, Hazare has had to drop plans to tour the country with the hugely popular but controversial right-wing yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, and Team Anna is busily denying that the expulsion of a Muslim leader from the core group signals that it's falling apart.
This all begs the question: If nobody turns up for a protest rally, does it actually make a sound?
— By Jason Overdorf in New Delhi, India