PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Thousands of demonstrators flocked Tuesday to the biggest anti-capitalist annual event of its kind worldwide to protest what they see as the global system's grave injustice and other ills.
Waving banners with the hopeful slogan "Another World is Possible," they marked the opening of the World Social Forum, an alliance of social movements opposed to the World Economic Forum, the annual gathering of the world's economic and political elites being held at the same time in the Swiss resort of Davos.
"Together we are 99 percent" of the world's people, compared to the one percent of the rich, many signs read, echoing sentiments of the Occupy Wall Street protests.
About 15,000 took part in the events, police said. Even so, this year's WSF -- which stretches through Sunday -- was smaller in size than in previous years.
Participants including members of Spain's "Indignant" movement and the US Occupy Wall Street, are meeting in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre to weigh alternative solutions to the global economic crisis.
Leftist President Dilma Rousseff is expected to attend the event along with 70,000 other people.
Under the slogan "Capitalist Crisis, Social and Environmental Justice," the forum aims to lay the groundwork for a peoples' summit of social movements to be held in parallel to the high-level UN conference on sustainable development scheduled for June in Rio.
The forum has its roots in 1999 street protests in the US city of Seattle during a World Trade Organization meeting but it settled in Porto Alegre as its regular venue 12 years ago when it drew 20,000 activists from around the world.
Since then, it has brought together up to 150,000 people.
"The forum was born to challenge the arrogance of the neo-liberals in Davos. We said clearly that we wanted another world. Now we must build the ways, the alternatives," forum coordinator Candido Grzybowski told AFP this week.
Yet in recent years, the forum appears to have run out of steam, so organizers hope to revitalize it by identifying alternative solutions to the world's economic, political and environmental challenges.
One group of environmental activists was toting buzz-saws and coffins, saying that if nature is not protected, we will all pay with our lives. One marcher's sign read: "Jail for crimes against Nature: Live Green."
"We have got to put on the table the challenges the planet is up against, that's our goal," said Christophe Aguiton, with the French group ATTAC.
"What brings us all together is the struggle against capitalism. It is very important for us to work together," said Ruth Ramos, of the Lima Homosexual Movement.
"Capitalism is a nightmare; it is disastrous to life and love," a group of women sung, sweating in 35 degree (95 Fahrenheit) heat and rain which did not dampen protesters' passions.
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