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Europe's 'holy fools' set the tone for US Occupy Wall Street protesters

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IN PICTURES: Best signs of Occupy Wall Street protests

In tent cities at City University in Paris this summer, or in Madrid and Athens – where youth unemployment tops 40 percent – one heard the tropes of “99 percent” and Occupy Wall St: The economic system is stacked against ordinary people whose taxes are used to bail out banks and states coffers for bad decisions they didn’t make. Meanwhile, European austerity policies are eviscerating jobs.

Some here think they are at a European Woodstock or a transplanted Arab spring. Some young people wear masks – there’s a lot of “radical chic” – but there are also a lot of grandparents. Some talk about changing the world, some just want a job. They live on the Web, follow social networks, connect to kindred spirits in India, in Madison, Wisc., in Tunis, in Israel and Brussels. They don’t discuss strategies of violence. Many predicted this summer their disillusionment would jump the Atlantic and hit Wall Street. Few believed them.

On Oct. 15, there is planned global demonstration.

Utopian? No. I just want some representation.

“We are accused of being utopian.” says François, part of an economy talk shop at City University in September. “But if we were standing here in 1750 and we spoke of the world as it has become in 2011, people would have accused us of being utopian or crazy. OK, some of us want to do away with money, but a lot just want a better representative democracy.”

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