Occupy movement, workers shut ports
Port of Oakland.
photo: Bill Bowers
Dec 14, 2011
Dec. 12 — Today, Occupy activists from Vancouver, Canada, to San
Diego, Calif., disrupted and shut down West Coast ports in solidarity with port
workers. Specifically, they embraced the port truckers’ struggle for
union recognition and efforts by the International Longshore Workers Union to
fight union-busting in Longview, Wash. They were also responding to federally
coordinated attacks on the Occupy movement across the country.
Once again, the largest protests were in Oakland,
Calif. Despite continuous and well-publicized attempts by Oakland city
officials and the Port of Oakland to discredit the port shutdown campaign, the
all-day protest was massive. It started at 5 a.m. at the West Oakland Bay Area
Rapid Transit station, in the shadow of the Port of Oakland.
photo: Judy Greenspan
More than 2,500 Occupy activists, teachers, other union members, students
and unemployed youth from all over northern California marched on the Port of
Oakland to shut it down. The main two terminals scheduled for day-shift work
were closed and the longshore workers sent home by 10:30 a.m.
Later in the day, coordinated marches from Oscar Grant Plaza in downtown
Oakland and the West Oakland BART brought out about 20,000 demonstrators, who
quickly and effectively shut down the port. By 6 p.m., all longshore workers
were being sent home, and the port was closed tighter than a drum.
The afternoon rally in Oakland featured fiery speeches directly targeting
capitalism. Speakers pointed out how sexism, racism and anti-gay bigotry are
all spawned by capitalist oppression and how it is the exploitation of labor
that is the source of capitalist profits.
Scott Olsen, the Iraq war veteran who sustained a serious head injury during
the October police attack on Occupy Oakland, addressed the crowd and announced
he was again marching with Occupy Oakland.
After shutting down two shifts, Occupy Oakland activists remained at the
port to continue the protest in response to police attacks in San Diego,
Seattle, Houston and other cities. Pickets were established at two port
terminals prior to the 3:00 a.m. shift, which then was also cancelled,
effectively shutting down the Oakland Port for 24 hours.
Similar demonstrations were held up and down the West Coast, some aimed to
shut down port terminals, others as informational solidarity
In Longview, Wash., where EGT is attempting to split
up the ILWU coastwide grain terminal contract, the port was shut down with the
help of supporters from Portland and Seattle. Dan Coffman, president of ILWU
Local 21 in Longview, thanked the Occupy rally by phone: “Without you
this wouldn’t have been possible. You inspire us to keep on fighting. The
ILWU is part of the 99 percent. You have the sleeping giant on [its] feet.
… This is the rebirth of the labor movement.”
Some 1,000 demonstrators in Seattle marched from
downtown to the port there and were able to completely shut down the night
shift at two terminals. The police attacked with tear gas and percussion
grenades. One protester was pepper-sprayed directly in the face, and a number
were arrested. Occupy Seattle decided to close down the night shift, rather
than the day shift, so that the port truckers, who are mainly unorganized
Africans and South Asians, would not be penalized.
Portland, Ore., some 500 people, including
rank-and-file ILWU members, shut down the port entirely on the morning and
evening shifts. The port arbitrator ruled for the ILWU, so the longshore
workers were paid for four hours and sent home.
Occupy L.A. and Occupy supporters from the central
coast of California successfully slowed operations at the Port of Long
Beach and Port of Hueneme, respectively.
The Long Beach march started at Harry Bridges Park,
named for the leader of the 1934 San Francisco general strike that won a
unified longshore union and smashed racist divisions on the docks.
Hundreds came — some media said 1,000 — to defend the right of
truckers, mostly Latino/a drivers, to unionize, as well as in recognition of
the ILWU in Longview, Wash., and the right of the Occupy Wall Street movement
to continue without police repression and violence.
Twenty-six Los Angeles truckers had been fired at Toll Group when they wore
Teamster union jackets to work, sparking the call for the Dec. 12 shutdown.
Goldman Sachs financial empire owns 51 percent of anti-union SSA Marine.
Marchers filled the entrance to the ILWU parking lot before the 7 a.m. start
time. They came from Pasadena, Long Beach, Los Angeles and other areas with OWS
activism — 55 from Riverside, Calif., alone — including Teamsters
in their jackets and a hunger striker from San Diego in a wheelchair.
Occupy4Jobs.org signs read: “Bust Goldman Sachs, not our
unions.” The back-up of cars grew, waited and then turned around, but
still no trucks. Many police in a line pushed with batons against a wall of
people determined to stop business as usual for capitalism for as long as they
could on this day.
More police came, not only from Long Beach but from Los Angeles, and the
highway patrol. One man was thrown to the ground and arrested, his head
bleeding. But the occupation of the road continued. Trucks were lined up,
unable to enter. A tent was pitched in the roadway. By 10 a.m. the marchers
were back in Harry Bridges Park, but trucks were backed up to the freeway and
the ILWU parking lot was empty.
In Houston, a group of demonstrators were held face
down, handcuffed, while cops brazenly placed a tent over them, preventing
onlookers from witnessing what was being done. Houston cops covered their badge
numbers with duct tape before arresting 20 or 25 of the protesters.
Occupy Denver gathered at the Wal-Mart Distribution
Center in Loveland, Colo. Several people sat in front of the chain’s
trucks to form a blockade, linking arms, and were dragged away and arrested.
There were 13 arrests in all — a few just for jaywalking/crossing the
street, others for the blockade/resisting arrest.
In New York, a spirited march in solidarity with the
port actions went from Zuccotti Park to several sites around the Wall Street
area owned by Goldman Sachs. At 10 a.m. around 200 OWS activists went inside
Winter Garden, a Goldman Sachs-owned mall, and began holding a rowdy
demonstration. The police responded with violence, and there were more than 20
arrests. The usually busy mall was closed for several hours.
In Japan, the International Labor Solidarity
Committee of Doro-Chiba held a solidarity protest against Itochu, an affiliate
of EGT which is trying to bust the ILWU in Longview.
This historic day was the result of a coordinated effort among the many
Occupy movements in port cities along the West Coast. It arose partially in
response to the police repression against Occupy encampments across the
country. These brutal attacks against Occupy sites were overseen by the
Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
The federally coordinated attack against Occupy Oakland on Oct. 25 was
followed by police attacks against Occupy encampments in other locations,
including the eviction of the initial OWS from Zuccotti Park in New York. But
instead of crushing the movement, this vicious repression has only made it
The movement of cargo was halted or disrupted along the entire West Coast.
Today’s coordinated actions demonstrated to the 1% who rule this country
that the Occupy movement is here to stay, and will continue to fight for
economic justice for the 99% and against police repression.
Contributors to this article include Judy Greenspan, Paul
Teitelbaum, Terri Kay, Jim McMahan, Dave Welsh, Cheryl LaBash and Caleb T.