BUSINESS
10/17/2011 10:20 EDT | Updated 12/17/2011 05:12 EST

Occupy Wall Street, now international, marks 1-month birthday with $300K in bank

NEW YORK, N.Y. - The month-old Occupy Wall Street movement enjoyed its new momentum Monday, with nearly $300,000 in the bank and the satisfaction of drawing global attention to what it sees as major economic inequalities. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed sympathy with the protesters, and even protest-averse China said some issues raised are worth considering.

From a few dozen people camping out in a small Manhattan park near the rising World Trade Center complex, the movement swelled to hundreds of thousands of people rallying around the world this weekend and numerous encampments springing up in cities large and small. Hundreds of protesters on Monday mingled with besmused bank workers in a new tent camp outside London's St. Paul's Cathedral.

The U.N. leader said the finance chiefs from the Group of 20 rich and developing nations, now meeting in Paris, should listen to the demonstrators. "Business as usual, or just looking at their own internal economic issues, will not give any answers to a very serious international economic crisis," Ban said.

"That is what you are seeing all around the world, starting from Wall Street, people are showing their frustrations, are trying to send a very clear and unambiguous message around the world."

The Wall Street protesters still haven't settled on a specific demand but are intent on building on momentum gained from Saturday's worldwide demonstrations, which drew hundreds of thousands of people, mostly in the U.S. and Europe.

President Barack Obama referred to the protests during Sunday's dedication of a monument for Martin Luther King Jr., saying the civil rights leader "would want us to challenge the excesses of Wall Street without demonizing those who work there."

The largest of Saturday's protests were in Europe, linking up with long-running demonstrations against government austerity measures. In Rome, hundreds of rioters infiltrated a march by tens of thousands of demonstrators, causing what the mayor estimated was at least €1 million ($1.4 million) in damage. Hundreds of thousands turned out in peaceful protests across the continent, including in Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Britain, Austria and France.

Around the U.S., over 350 people were arrested in a half-dozen cities during protests.

Interest in the demonstrations over economic inequality even reached China, where online calls for similar protests did not appear to elicit any responses.

"We feel that there are issues here that are worth pondering," said Liu Weimin, a foreign ministry spokesman during a regular briefing in Beijing on Monday.

In New York, early $300,000 in cash has been donated through the movement's website and by visitors to the park, said Bill Dobbs, a press liaison for Occupy Wall Street.

Donated goods range from blankets and sleeping bags to cans of food and medical and hygienic supplies. Among the items are 20 pairs of swimming goggles, to shield protesters from pepper-spray attacks. Supporters are shipping about 300 boxes a day, many with notes and letters, said Justin Strekal, a college student and political organizer who travelled from Cleveland to New York to help.

"Some are heartwrenching, beautiful," and come from people who have lost jobs and houses, he said. "So they send what they can, even if it's small."

Activists around the country said the weekend protests energized their movement.

"It's an upward trajectory," said John St. Lawrence, a Florida real estate lawyer who took part in Saturday's Occupy Orlando protest, which drew more than 1,500 people. "It's catching people's imagination and also, knock on wood, nothing sort of negative or discrediting has happened."

St. Lawrence is unconcerned that the movement has not rallied around any single proposal.

"I don't think the underlying theme is a mystery," he said. "We saw what the banks and financial institutions did to the economy. We bailed them out. And then they went about evicting people from their homes."

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Associated Press writers Suzette Laboy in Miami, Steve Szkotak in Richmond, Va., Kevin Begos in Pittsburgh, Laurie Kellman and Stacy A. Anderson in Washington, Tom LoBianco in Indianapolis, Sophia Tareen and Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report.