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Friday, Oct. 14, 2011
Wall Streets protests come to Tokyo
NEW YORK — Kalle Lasn, a Canadian activist who was instrumental in organizing the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests over social inequality and corporate greed, hopes the demonstrations will inspire Japan's unemployed youths to take similar action to express their anger.
The Wall Street protests started Sept. 17 and have since spread to other major U.S. cities, including Washington, Boston, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles.
But Lasn, 69, said his movement's ultimate goal is to inspire young people worldwide, including those in Japan who have experienced economic hardships since the bubble economy burst in the early 1990s.
An Occupy Tokyo rally was slated to take place on Saturday.
Lasn said he came up with the idea in July for the Wall Street protests — aimed at counteracting the conservative tea party movement in the United States — after being inspired by the Arab Spring prodemocracy revolutions that have swept the Middle East this year.
Lasn said he was surprised by the speed with which the movement spread, calling it "magic."
"It just started to have a life of its own and Twitter went crazy and Facebook became quite hot," he said, referring to the major role social networking sites have played in spreading his message.
"We had a feeling that the people in America were very angry, that there was a lot of rage in their guts, that they were losing their jobs, losing their houses and people were living in tent cities, and in the meantime, those financial elites in Wall Street, they were still getting big bonuses," Lasn said. "So we felt that the moment was right, that somehow, if you can just have one spark, the spark can turn into a fire."
Lasn, who was born in Estonia, moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1970. He launched the Adbusters activist magazine in 1989, aiming to change what he perceived as the prevailing corporate-driven consumer culture. In the early 1990s, Lasn successfully organized a "Buy Nothing Day" campaign around the yearend holiday season in Canada, as well as overseas countries including Japan.
Asked if he started the Occupy Wall Street movement as a way of supporting U.S. President Barack Obama's proposed tax hikes for major corporations and the rich, Lasn said, "Not really," and went on to express his dismay over the president's inability to deliver on his promises.