#occupywallstreet

Up to 50,000 people braved the cold and snow on Saturday to turn out for the largest ever protest against the rule of prime minister Vladimir Putin.

Bolotnaya Square, across the river from the Kremlin in central Moscow, was filled to overflowing with thousands standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the bridges and along the riverfront leading to the site. Tens of thousands of police and interior troops were deployed around the area, but protesters had been allowed by officials to gather in an unprecedented show of discontent.

Shouts of “Russia without Putin!” and “Freedom!” were mixed with demands that the Kremlin annul a disputed parliamentary election that saw Putin’s United Russia party gain nearly 50% of the vote despite widespread accusations of fraud.

"I demand new elections," said Maxim, 26, an economist. "If they don’t agree, we will continue to come out. The people have woken up – they see there’s a point to going out into the streets and expressing what they don’t agree with."

Opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov said a further protest would be held on Christmas eve if the Kremlin refused to cancel the election results. The overwhelmingly young crowd organised via social networking sites and exceeded early estimates of 30,000.

Police arrested at least 16 people, including journalist Chris Hedges and performance artist Reverend Billy Talen, during a rally Thursday outside the headquarters of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in lower Manhattan.

The rally was held after a mock trial at the nearby Occupy Wall Street encampment, in which Goldman’s alleged misdeeds were weighed in a “people’s hearing.” The event, led by author and activist Cornell West, was broadcast live on a radio station and drew hundreds of protesters and spectators, many of whom then marched down Trinity Place towards Goldman’s skyscraper.

“The banking system has been shot through with greed,” said West, a professor at Princeton University. He marched arm in arm with several protesters, whom he referred to as his “brothers and sisters.” Some protesters held signs that read “Out of Your Ivory Tower” and “Don’t Feed the Bull.”

Reverend Billy, dressed in his signature white suit, called the Occupy movement “real, physical, actual hope,” and he blamed President Barack Obama for “drain[ing] all meaning from the word ‘hope.’” Talen added: “He’s no less corrupt than George Bush. He’s been unable to regulate these people,” referring to financial institutions.

At the entrance to Goldman’s headquarters on West Street, protesters read their verdict aloud: “Guilty of felony fraud, violating security laws, perjury before a Senate commission and the theft of $78 billion in taxpayer money.”

Several people then sat down in front with the building with their arms linked. As police handcuffed each person one at a time, some used nonviolent resistance tactics such curling up on the ground. The final protester to be arrested made her body limp and was carried away by several police officers.