Provocation the name of the game as crisis escalates

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A fighter jet flies above as Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armoured personnel carrier in Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine

That term was duly used to describe yesterday’s bloodshed in Slavyansk, a town of 100,000 people under the total control of separatists.

The fact that “provocation” is the word of the day shows how dangerous this crisis has become. More than anything else, Ukraine’s government fears an unstoppable Russian invasion. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian prime minister, believes that President Vladimir Putin has a “dream to restore the Soviet Union”.

But Mr Putin would need an excuse – or a “provocation” – before he could order the 40,000 Russian troops massed on Ukraine’s eastern frontier to advance.

Last Sunday, Ukraine’s leaders risked handing him that pretext when they announced a military offensive against the separatists in Donetsk region. As it turned out, this operation swiftly became a fiasco when Ukrainian soldiers surrendered their weapons rather than confront pro-Russian civilians.

Now that a Ukrainian assault seems unlikely to provoke Mr Putin, incidents such as the one in Slavyansk pose the greatest danger. Vyacheslav Ponomaruv, the separatist mayor of the town, duly called on Russia to send “peacekeeping” troops to Donetsk to “protect” the Russian-speaking population.

If Mr Putin wants to invade, he can argue that he was merely answering the pleas of his compatriots, who were dying in mysterious gun attacks that Ukraine’s own government was, at the very least, incapable of preventing.

But the Ukrainian authorities fear that Mr Putin is in the business of manufacturing his own excuses. They see the hand of Russian intelligence behind yesterday’s incident – and indeed all the occupations in Donetsk. Western governments broadly agree: they interpret the sudden birth of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” – and the promise to hold a referendum on the region’s status by May 11 – as evidence of a Russian plan to dismember Ukraine.

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Shots Fired As Troops Land At Ukraine Airport

Ukrainian troops defy pro-Russian separatists and take control of an air base in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.

Airborne troops have landed at an airport in the eastern city of Kramatorsk as Ukraine launches an “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists.

Shots rang out from inside the air base after Ukrainian troops disembarked from two military helicopters.

Ukraine’s Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov says troops have taken control of the facility.

Reuters reported that the troops withdrew into barracks at the airport following a “scuffle” with several hundred pro-Russian protesters.

Russian news reports initially said up to 11 people were in clashes at the base, however Ukraine’s defense ministry says none of its troops were killed or injured.

An Ukrainian soldier aims his rifle at pro-Russia protesters gathered in front of an Ukrainian airbase in Kramatorsk
Armed soldiers gather at the airport in Kramatorsk

The Ukrainian state security service announced that a similar operation was launched in the town of Slaviansk, some 12 miles away.

The two cities are among 10 locations in the Russian-speaking east where separatist rebellions have broken out.

Video footage emerged on Tuesday of a group of separatists stopping a Ukrainian tank and questioning its crew near the village of Rodinskoye.

Mr Turchynov has accused Russia of harboring “brutal plans” to destabilize the region by backing separatists and refusing to force them to stand down.

“The plans of the Russian Federation were and remain brutal,” he said.

“They want not only for Donbass (Donetsk region), but for the whole south and east of Ukraine to be engulfed by fire.”

Pro-Russian separatists seize buildings
Unrest has broken out in several cities across eastern Ukraine

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Ukraine was on the verge of civil war.

“I will be brief: Ukraine is on the brink of civil war, it’s frightening,” he said.

The White House is “seriously considering” new sanctions against Russia and says its supports Ukrainian efforts to restore law and order in the country’s east.

“The Ukrainian government has the responsibility to provide law and order and these provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the government has to respond,” spokesman Jay Carney said.

He added that the Washington continues to plan to participate in talks scheduled for Thursday between the Russian and Ukrainian governments, the US and the European Union, Mr. Carney added.

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Armed men stand guard outside a seized building in Slavyansk

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has welcomed the talks, but said any Ukrainian military action in the east could jeopardize the negotiations.

“You can’t send in tanks and at the same time hold talks, and the use of force would sabotage the opportunity offered by the four-party negotiations in Geneva,” he said.

Meanwhile, two pro-Russian politicians have been attacked by pro-Western activists as tensions remain high.

Oleh Tsaryov, a candidate in the presidential elections on May 25, was pelted with eggs and beaten as he left a TV studio in Kiev on Tuesday.

Mikhaylo Dobkin, another Russian-leaning politician, was sprayed with a green disinfectant on Monday night.

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Polish Minister: If Opposition Does Not Accept Deal in Ukraine, Martial Law Will be Declared and “You All Will Be Dead”

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The Polish Foreign Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, told a Ukrainian protest leader if EuroMaidan activists do not enter into an agreement to end the occupation of Independence Square in Kyiv, martial law will be declared and they will be killed.

“If you don’t support this [deal] you’ll have martial law, you’ll have the army. You will all be dead,” Sikorski said upon leaving a meeting. The exchange was filmed by ITN, a television network based in London, England.

In a Twitter post, Sikorski characterized a deal reached between the demonstrators and the Ukrainian government as a “good compromise for Ukraine. Gives peace a chance. Opens the way for reform and to Europe. Poland and EU support it,” according to Fox News. Sikorski is a mediator on the crisis for the European Union.

The deal includes a pledge by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to hold elections and a promise to include the opposition in a new government. No time frame was set for implementation of the agreement.

According to the German government, leaders of the Maidan movement have agreed to sign the agreement. “We are prepared to do everything to obtain a peaceful solution. I told the German foreign minister I would personally appeal to protesters before signing,” said opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko, a former boxer.

Interfax reported opposition leader and ultra-nationalist Oleh Yaroslavovych Tyahnybok as stating one condition of the agreement is that the present interior minister and prosecutor-general must be excluded from any interim government.

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Tens of thousands of Tunisians march against Islamist-led govt one of largest protests to date

Supporters of the Islamist Ennahda movement light flares and wave flags during a rally in Tunis

Tens of thousands of Tunisians have marched on the seat of the elected assembly demanding the government resign in one of the largest opposition protests to date.

Saturday marked 40 days since the assassination of opposition politician Mohammed Brahmi, whose killing has plunged the country into a political crisis.

Dozens of opposition members of the assembly withdrew from the body, paralyzing its work of writing the country’s new constitution. Weeks of mediation between the government and the opposition by the main labor union have not borne fruit.

The opposition is demanding the Islamist-led government resign for what they say is its failure to ensure security or manage the economy in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring.

“We are determined to continue the struggle to extract the country from the disastrous situation it finds itself in because of those in power,” said Beji Caid Essebsi, leader of the right-of-center Nida Tunis (Tunis Calls) party, one of the main opposition groups.

“After the blood, Ennahda has no legitimacy,” chanted demonstrators who came from all over the country to answer the opposition call for the march.

When Tunisians overthrew their decades-old authoritarian government in January 2011, it sparked a wave of pro-democracy uprisings across the region, but the transition to democracy has been rocky since.

“Leave! The dictator understood, but you still don’t understand,” chanted the marchers, referring to how Tunisia’s president fled for Saudi Arabia in the face of popular demonstrations.

The opposition is demanding the Islamist-led government resign immediately for what they say is its failure to ensure security or manage the economy. The latest standoff is the greatest crisis of the transition and a solution acceptable to both sides appears to still be distant.

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Fifth Night Of Rioting In Sweden

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Rioters took to the streets of Sweden for the fifth night in a row on Thursday, torching cars, shops, schools and a police station.

Firefighters were dispatched to 70 different location across Stockholm in response to blazes started by groups of youths.

Two schools, including a Montessori school, were set on fire in two suburbs of the Swedish capital and up to 15 car fires were reported at locations across the city and beyond.

The unrest began on Sunday night after the fatal shooting of a 69-year-old man in an area with a high population of immigrants.

The man was said to have been wielding a machete and was shot by police who claimed they were acting in self defence.

Local activists claimed the incident sparked anger among local mostly immigrant youths who say they suffer police brutality.

During the first night of rioting, youths claimed that police called them “tramps, monkeys and negroes”.

Wednesday night was the peak when firefighters had to deal with fires at 90 locations across Stockholm.

Last night firefighters had to put out fires at schools in Tensta and Kista, and tackled burned-out cars in Solluntuna, Jordbro, Norsborg and Rinkby.

A police station and several shops were set on fire in Aelvsjoe.

Map of greater Stockholm showing locations of riots on fifth night
Map of greater Stockholm showing locations of riots on fifth night

And police in Soedertaelje, a town south of Stockholm, said rioters threw stones at them as they responded to reports of cars set alight.

Police spokesman Kjell Lindgren said the riots had “decreased in intensity”.

He said 13 people were arrested on Thursday night, between the ages of 17 and 26, but no injuries were reported.

The riots have sparked a debate about the assimilation of immigrants, who make up about 15% of the population.

Analysts say many of the immigrants who have arrived due to the country’s generous refugee policy struggle to learn the language and find employment.

Stockholm county police chief Mats Loefving said the rioters were local youths both with and without criminal records.

“In the midst of all this there is a small group of professional criminals, who are taking advantage of the situation to commit crimes like this,” he told Swedish Radio.

Ulf Johansson, deputy police chief for Stockholm county, said on Thursday: “Every injured person is a tragedy, every torched car is a failure for society … but Stockholm is not burning.

“Let’s have a level-headed view of the situation.”

In the past decade Sweden has welcomed hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and the Balkans, among others.

Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag has attributed the current violence to high unemployment and social exclusion in Sweden’s immigrant-dominated areas.

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Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Hundreds of people in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore attacked a Christian neighborhood Saturday and set fire to homes after hearing accusations that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam’s prophet, said a police officer.

Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan that can carry the death penalty but sometimes outraged residents exact their own retribution for perceived insults of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim and people of other faiths, including the nation’s small Christian community, are often viewed with suspicion.

The incident started Friday when a young Muslim man accused a Christian man of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the prophet, according to Multan Khan, a senior police officer in Lahore.

A large crowd from a nearby mosque went to the Christian man’s home on Friday night, and Khan said police took him into custody to try to pacify the crowd. Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight.

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Khan said the mob returned on Saturday and began ransacking Christian homes and setting them ablaze. He said no one in the Christian community was hurt, but several policemen were injured when they were hit with stones as they tried to keep the crowd from storming the area.

The scene was chaotic. An Associated Press photographer on the scene said roughly 50 homes and a small church were set on fire. One man was seen carrying a dog and some puppies from a burning house. Refrigerators, washing and sewing machines, cooking pots, beds and other household goods were ripped from homes, smashed and torched in the streets.

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

One Christian couple from the neighborhood said they went to their Muslim neighbors’ house on Friday night after people came looking for the Christian man accused of blasphemy. Ishaq Masih said the Muslim neighbors sheltered the couple for the night and then gave them money to leave the area in the morning.

Such accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan can prompt huge crowds to take the law into their own hands. Once an accusation is made it’s extremely difficult to get it reversed, partly because law enforcement officials do not want to be seen as being soft on blasphemers.

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Also on Saturday, four people were killed and 25 were wounded when a bomb exploded inside a mosque of the Sunni Barelvi sect in the northwestern city of Peshawar. The bomb was planted in a bookshelf inside the mosque and was detonated by remote control when noon prayers started, said senior police officer Imtiaz Khan.

Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, has been the site of several terrorist attacks in recent months. The city is surrounded by lawless tribal regions where al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban have hideouts.

The Pakistani military has carried out several operations in the area, but intermittent terrorist attacks continue.

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Egypt’s armed forces chief warns unrest could cause collapse of state

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General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s comments spark fears military might once again intervene in day-to-day governance of Egypt

In an ominous warning, the head of Egypt’s armed forces has said that continuing civil unrest may soon cause the collapse of the Egyptian state.

Parts of Egypt are in turmoil following five days of rioting in which 52 people have been killed and more than 1,000 injured after protests against President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and police brutality turned violent. The unrest comes two years after the start of the 2011 revolution that toppled the former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s comments have sparked fears that the military might once again intervene in the day-to-day governance of Egypt, a country effectively ruled for most of the past century by army officers.

Writing on the army’s Facebook page, Sisi said: “The continuation of the struggle of the different political forces … over the management of state affairs could lead to the collapse of state.”

Sisi, who was appointed by Morsi last year and is also the country’s defence minister, said the army would remain a “solid and cohesive block” on which the state could rely.

Controversially, the country’s new constitution solidifies the army’s judicial independence. It was also asked to help restore order on the streets of Port Said this week, prompting reminders of Mubarak-era state governance.

The military has, however, taken more of a backseat role since Sisi replaced General Hussein Tantawi as head of the armed forces last year. It still controls large parts of the Egyptian economy, but is felt in some quarters to be content for the time being with getting its own house in order.

Asked by the Guardian whether he feared military intervention should the unrest continue, Gehad al-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said: “No. I know enough about the way President Morsi removed General Tantawi to not be worried.”

On a street near Tahrir Square, protesters against the Muslim Brotherhood said they did not fear a military intervention, arguing that either regime was undesirable.

“If the army comes, we will still be on the street,” said Mina Remond, a 20-year-old student standing near clashes between police and demonstrators on the banks of the Nile.

Source: Guardian

Mursi declares state of emergency as protests escalate in Egypt

Clashes at Tawkifeya [Photo: Al Hussainy Mohamed]

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi declared a 30-day state of emergency in three Suez Canal cities yesterday, as protests begun on the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution spread throughout the country. Police and army units fired live ammunition, killing dozens of people and injuring hundreds, while protesters attacked police stations and offices of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in cities across Egypt.

The move came amid rising expectations of a decisive confrontation with police in mass protests planned for today, the anniversary of the “Friday of Rage” protests of January 28, 2011. On that day, hundreds of thousands of protesters battled police mobilized by then-President Hosni Mubarak in street fighting in Cairo. Mubarak was toppled amid a revolutionary strike wave of the Egyptian working class two weeks later.

Mursi declared a 30-day state of emergency for Port Saïd, Suez, and Ismailia, as well as a 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew. The state of emergency allows the police and military to detain protesters indefinitely without charge and to prosecute them in military courts, to suspend constitutional rights, and to censor the press.

Mursi threatened to re-establish the state of emergency throughout Egypt: “I always said I’m against any exceptional measures, but I also said I might resort to such measures if I had to. I may even do more for the sake of Egypt, it’s my duty… I instructed interior ministry officials to deal strictly with whoever threatens the people, public, and private institutions.” This is an open threat to crush all opposition to the government.

Shubra march [Photo: Al Hussainy Mohamed]

Mubarak ruled throughout his 30-year presidency under a state of emergency. Mursi’s decision to re-impose it to crush protests testifies to the counter-revolutionary character of his regime.

Mursi’s announcements reportedly led to more protests against the move. In Ismailiya, a new demonstration began with calls, “Down with Mursi, down with the state of emergency.”

Egypt’s bourgeois opposition is cynically issuing calls for protests, which will occur with or without them and over which they are trying to maintain their influence, while simultaneously giving their support to Mursi’s repression. The National Salvation Front issued a statement calling for the suspension of the constitution pushed through by the MB, “retribution” for the killings of protesters, and the dissolution of the government.

However, Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the NSF—a coalition led by the liberal Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nasserite Hamdeen Sabahi, and former Mubarak regime official Amr Moussa—declared: “Of course we feel the president is missing the real problem on the ground, which is his own actions. His call to implement emergency law was an expected move, given what is going on, namely thuggery and criminal actions.”

The National Defense Council, led by Mursi and representatives of Egypt’s powerful army officer corps, invited the opposition to “broad national dialogue that would be attended by independent national characters.”

Army units deployed to Port Saïd and Suez yesterday, amid escalating protests over death sentences handed out against 21 fans of Port Saïd’s Al-Masry Football Club. Last year they worked with police to attack fans of Cairo’s Al-Ahly club, who had played a major role in street fighting against Mubarak’s thugs in the 2011 protests in Cairo. Some 73 Ahly fans were killed and roughly 1,000 wounded. (See also: Mass protests in Egypt against pro-junta football riot ).

At the time, MB officials criticized police and the ruling military junta, claiming the tragedy was “the result of intentional reluctance” by the authorities. Now that the MB is in power, however, they are protecting the police. While the Al-Masry thugs worked with Port Saïd police officials during the raid, the announcement of the police officials’ sentence was delayed until March 9, leading to widespread suspicions that they would be let off.

Friends and relatives of Al-Masry fans sentenced to death stormed the jails to free them, setting off a violent confrontation with police forces in which at least 30 protesters were killed, shot with live bullets and birdshot.

On Sunday the army fired on the funeral procession for those killed Saturday, scattering the procession and claiming at least three more lives.

In Suez clashes intensified Saturday, after nine protesters were killed by police on Friday. The protesters were reportedly shot with live ammunition at close range, including some from behind.

Protesters stormed the Suez police station, set prisoners free, and took police weapons. After forcing the security forces to flee, they burned down the building. As during the Friday of Rage on January 28 two years ago, police withdrew from Suez, and the Third Army was sent in to enforce security in the city and crack down on protesters.

The army moved also into Ismailiya, another city on the Suez Canal. Military reinforcements were sent to the headquarters of the Suez Canal Authority. Mursi and the Egyptian military are worried that they can lose control of the strategic waterway. Since the fall of Mubarak, strikes by Suez Canal workers have repeatedly threatened the operations at the Canal, which are critical to global trade and the US military’s presence in the Middle East.

Over the weekend, protests intensified in cities across Egypt. In the industrial city of Mahalla, protesters attacked the city’s police station with rocks and attempted to storm it. Security forces shot tear gas canisters at protesters. Protesters also attacked the Mahalla city council, throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at the building.

As of this writing, there are ongoing protests and clashes in the capital city, Cairo. On the iconic Tahrir Square, the symbol of the Egyptian Revolution, and its surrounding streets, protesters are defying attacks by Egyptian security forces.

On Sunday demonstrators blocked the 6th of October Bridge, leading to downtown Cairo, as well as the Sadat metro station, bringing the metro traffic to a halt. On the Corniche al-Nil, security forces fired tear gas at protesters who defended themselves by throwing stones. Protesters also attacked the Ministry of Supply and Social Affairs, setting the building on fire.

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Egypt to try 7 Copts, US pastor over Prophet film

CAIRO –  Egypt’s general prosecutor issued arrest warrants Tuesday for seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor and referred them to trial on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that has sparked riots across the Muslim world.

The case is largely symbolic since the seven men and one woman are believed to be outside of Egypt and unlikely to travel to the country to face the charges. Instead, the prosecutor’s decision to take legal appears aimed at absorbing at least some of the public anger over the amateur film, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, womanizer and buffoon.

The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the accused, which includes the film’s alleged producer, face charges of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information. The office said they could face the death penalty, if convicted. No date for the trial has been set.

Among those charged is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Copt living in southern California and believed to be behind the film. Florida-based Pastor Terry Jones, who has said he was contacted by the filmmaker to promote the video, as well as Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who pushed the video on his website, are also among those charged.

The connection of the other five accused in the case to the film was not immediately clear.

Ultraconservative Salafi lawyer Mamdouh Ismail praised the prosecutor’s decision. While recognizing that the eight will be tried in absentia, Ismail said referring them to trial will help curb public anger.

“Now these are legal measures instead of angry reactions, whose consequences are undetermined,” he said. “This would also set a deterrent for them and anyone else who may fall into this” offense.

The prosecutor’s statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, said that after studying the film investigators have determined that it contains scenes offensive to Islam and state institutions. It also says they questioned 10 plaintiffs before issuing the charges.

Nakoula, 55, told the AP in an interview last week outside Los Angeles that he was the manager of the company that produced “Innocence of Muslims.” Jones also told AP that he was contacted by Nakoula to promote the movie.

The film, clips of it appeared on YouTube, mocked the Prophet Muhammad and drove small but angry crowds to protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and an attack on the American Consulate in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador. Other protests have erupted across the Muslim world over the video, including Afghanistan, Yemen and Indonesia.

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100 Arrested At Occupy Anniversary

Occupy Wall Street celebrated its one-year anniversary on Monday with a day of demonstrations that resulted in nearly 150 arrests but failed to produce the turnout or fervor that first propelled the movement into the national conversation.

The demonstrations attracted roughly 1,000 activists, down sharply from last fall, highlighting the challenge the movement has faced in trying to sustain interest in protesting against what it calls an unfair economic system.

The New York Police Department, with a heavy presence of officers on foot, in cars, and on motorcycles and horseback, arrested about 146 demonstrators in the financial district, it said. The NYPD set up heavy security around the New York Stock Exchange, major banks and government buildings.

Wall Street’s landmark Charging Bull, a 7,100-pound (3,220-kg) bronze sculpture, received extra police protection.

“A lot of media is saying that Occupy is dying down, but I think the fact that over 100 people were arrested this morning shows that Occupy is still part of the conversation,” said one protester, Caleb Maupin, 24, of Queens.

“We’ve been locked out, people my age don’t have much chance of getting a job, so we have to do something to get people’s attention,” Maupin said.

Marching to the sounds drums, trumpets and saxophones, the protesters showered the streets of lower Manhattan with chants of “All Day, All Week, Occupy Wall Street” and taunted police with donuts suspended at the end of fishing rods.

“Put down your guns and join the people,” one middle-aged woman shouted at police.

Occupy Wall Street protesters, who popularized the phrase “We are the 99 percent,” kicked off the demonstrations early Monday near Zuccotti Park, where a spontaneous encampment became their unofficial headquarters last year.

“What happened here a year ago was a process that cannot be stopped,” Pulitzer prize-winning author Chris Hedges said. “What happened here a year ago will ultimately spell the doom of the corporate state.”

Crowds grew steadily over the course of the day, with protesters briefly disrupting the morning commute and drawing a smattering of onlookers, both New Yorkers making their way to the office and tourists taking in the financial district on a warm fall day.

Still, confrontations between protesters and the police, while heated, stopped short of the disorder that broke out at times last year. In one instance last October, more than 700 protester were arrested when they blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

“It seems that Occupy Wall Street is losing momentum,” said Vincent Smorto, 63, a network engineer from Brooklyn who stopped briefly to watch the protests. “In the 60s when people were protesting the Vietnam war they knew exactly what they wanted. These folks do not seem exactly clear on what it is they want.”

Many of those working in the financial district shrugged off the protests, saying they amounted to little more than a brief inconvenience.

“A lot of people who work round here, they’re not making the policies they’re protesting against,” said Raymond Villaneuva, an intern at a mergers and acquisitions advisory firm.

The grassroots movement caught the world by surprise last fall with a spontaneous encampment in lower Manhattan that soon spread to cities across North America and Europe.

Occupy Wall Street briefly buoyed a spirit of U.S. social activism, and drew attention to economic injustice. But as weeks and months passed, donations to the flagship New York chapter have slowed to a trickle, polls show public support waning and media attention dropping precipitously.

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