15 Oct 2011

Hundreds in NZ join anti-Wall St protests

8:55 pm on 15 October 2011

Hundreds of people protested in New Zealand's main centres on Saturday as the Occupy Wall Street movement spreads around the world.

In at least two centres, the rallies are the begining of what is promised to be a week, or longer, occupation.

The anti-greed protests started a month ago in a park close to New York's Wall Street and have spread to hundreds of cities globally.

At least 200 people rallied on Wellington's city to sea bridge at the Civic Square and intend to occupy it for a week, while about 300 marched up Queen Street in Auckland, ahead of a rally in Aotea Square.

About 30 people gathered in Hagley Park in Christchurch, with organisers expecting hundreds by the afternoon when a march is planned up Riccarton Road.

Rallies are also taking place on Saturday in Dunedin and New Plymouth.

A spokesperson for the Occupy Aotearoa group Rob Read says their focus is on the growing inequality in society and corporate greed.

He says he'll be staying in Hagley Park for as long as it takes to make a difference against what he says is a system that leaves millions in poverty.

"People like myself who work every day and at the end of the week I still have to make the decision whether to pay the bills or eat for the forthcoming week. I don't see that as being right or fair, it goes against the Human Rights Act."

Mr Read says the community spirit shown by Cantabrians following the earthquakes is the sort of thing his group would like to see more of, instead of rampant consumerism and growing inequality.

In Sydney, about 2,000 people, including representatives of Aboriginal groups, left-wing groups and trade unionists, protested outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia.

"I think people want real democracy," said Nick Carson, a spokeperson for OccupyMelbourne.Org. "They don't want corporate influence over their politicians. They want their politicians to be accountable."

A number of Wall Street protesters have been arrested in New York during scuffles with police as they marched towards the city's financial district, the BBC reports.

The confrontation came after activists averted a showdown with authorities who agreed not to move them from a park.

Demonstrators said officials' plan to clean Zuccotti Park, where they have been based for weeks, had been a ploy to evict them.