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Occupy Wall Street Protests Spread To Europe


Cleanup is under way in cities around the world after a weekend of protests. Tens of thousands of people turned out. They protested greedy bankers, inept politicians, government austerity, the growing gap between rich and poor, and above all, the system that runs the global economy.

There was some violence in Rome, dozens of arrests. Other places were more peaceful. And in London on this Monday, the protests are still going on. So let's talk about that and more with NPR's Philip Reeves, who's on the line. Hi, Philip.


INSKEEP: What have you seen in London today?

REEVES: Well, it's a rather remarkable scene really, Steve. I mean everyone knows St. Paul's Cathedral, that great domed church right in the heart of London, built by Christopher Wren after the great fire of London in the 17th century. Now that stands right next to the financial district. And remember, London is one of the world's, you know, biggest and most powerful financial capitals. And this morning, people going to work there, found themselves walking past dozens of little igloo tents, which have been pitched right outside the cathedral - testimony that the Occupy Wall Street movement, and also Spain's Indignados mass protest movement have come to London.

INSKEEP: So, who is protesting?

REEVES: Well, they tend to be young. They are not surprisingly young, I suppose, as latest figures reveal that 21 percent of the 16 to 14 year olds in the UK are now unemployed. But they're all not British either. I was talking to them over the weekend when it was a much bigger crowd, about 2 to 3,000 people. And there were middle class Europeans there, from continental Europe. Among them, for example, a guy called Gonzalo Fernandez. He's an architect. He's highly educated. He's 33 years old. He's having to work in Britain, he says, although the economy in Britain's bad and unemployment's rising, because the situation is a lot worse in Spain.

GONZALO FERNANDEZ: It's impossible to get back now, to Spain, even if I wanted, which actually, I do. There's no jobs there.

REEVES: What do you blame for this overall situation?

FERNANDEZ: Capitalism is the responsible, definitely is. It's not sustainable system from any point of view, from an economical point of view, from a social point of view, or from an environmental point of view.

REEVES: Fernandez's views summed up, Steve, the view of many I spoke to outside St. Paul's.

INSKEEP: Philip Reeves in London, I'm sure it's not entirely coincidental that these protests would be timed on the same weekend as a meeting of the world's largest economies - or leaders of the world's largest economies - the G-20 in Paris. What were they saying there?

REEVES: Well, yes. This was a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers, and I think their message can be boiled down to a pretty simple one, and it's a message to the eurozone leaders, and it is: get your act together. They want urgent action. Everyone is worried about a global recession. For a long time, Europe's leaders have been accused of dithering and bickering. So the G-20 is really piling on the pressure.

They want a comprehensive plan to solve this thing and they want it soon, before October the 23rd, that's less than a week away, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why then?

REEVES: The pace of this thing is really picking up, finally.

INSKEEP: Why then, October 23rd?

REEVES: Well, that's when there's going to be a summit of the European Union. And that is considered - it's next Sunday and it's considered critical. All eyes are on the eurozone's two big players - France and Germany. They've been working for quite a while now on a plan to end the eurozone's sovereign debt crisis. Very briefly, well, very, sort of, put very simply, the idea is to create a massive firewall that will protect other countries like Spain and Italy from being infected by the crisis that we've been reporting on for a long time, now, in Greece. And spreading, by the way, even beyond that, to the U.S. and the entire global economy.

Among the components are an agreement on the losses that the private sector should take on Greek debt, a credible plan for recapitalizing Europe's banks - these need to be strengthened, notably in France - and also how to use the beefed-up euro bailout fund, and whether to beef it up, still further, by a lot more.

INSKEEP: In just a few seconds Philip Reeves, given the political difficulty these countries have had agreeing on anything, can they really figure this out in less than a week?

REEVES: Pretty difficult. France and Germany have disagreements. They're going to need to get this thing done, the details are expected by Thursday, but it'll have to be a plan that convinces the markets that it's actually workable, it's going to be effective, and that is a tall order.

INSKEEP: Phil, thanks, as always.

REEVES: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Philip Reeves in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.