East Bay News

Protesters descend on Port of Oakland

Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Occupy Port of Oakland Protesters at the Port of Oakland Occupy sign on semi truck Oakland Mayor Jean Quan Port of Oakland protest

Protesters voted to extend a blockade at the Port of Oakland through the early morning at tonight's general assembly meeting.

In a news briefing tonight, Mayor Jean Quan said this action was "economic violence" and not fair to port workers or the community.

"I want to thank everyone for being peaceful today... but after the unofficial vote of the general assembly to continue the economic punishment of the Port of Oakland, I just have to say this -- while we have not had physical violence, the economic violence to this city is not fair."

"The labor community has already said they do not support this and still a small group of people are going to hold this port, this city, this community hostage," she said.

Police Chief Howard Jordan said no violence or arrests were reported tonight and police are continuing to monitor the situation and will take action if needed.

One of the reasons for today's daylong effort to shut down ports on the West Coast was to stand in solidarity with International Longshore and Warehouse Union members in a labor dispute with grain exporter EGT in Longview, Wash. and with truck drivers in Los Angeles, who are classified as independent contractors and do not receive benefits.

Protesters this evening said that Dan Kaufman, president of ILWU Local 21 in Longview had called with a message for the demonstrators. A speaker at the meeting repeated his message to the crowd.

"This is the rebirth of the labor movement," he said. "ILWU in Longview, Washington wants to thank all of the Occupiers on the West Coast for standing in solidarity."

Protesters tonight are discussing whether to extend the protest through the 3 a.m. shift Tuesday.

One speaker at tonight's meeting said they should consider extending the blockade for two reasons.

"For our comrades who have been repressed in Seattle, San Diego and Houston," she said. "And because there's going to be a lot of work at two terminals on this port at 3 a.m."

Port officials said no truck or gate operations are planned for tonight, which is typical for evening activity. However, no ILWU members were asked to work for the three vessels that are berthed at the port tonight.

"Today's disruptions have been costly to Port workers and their families in terms of lost wages and shifts, to Oakland and the region in terms of lost tax revenue, and to one of the most progressive Ports in the country in terms of draining already limited resources that should be focused on real solutions to the problems plaguing our economy," port officials said in a statement.

Protesters march to port

Monday's march began at Frank Ogawa Plaza at around 4 p.m., while more demonstrators began to march from the West Oakland BART station at around 5 p.m.

Officers cleared the roads this evening to make way for demonstrators who were holding signs, waving flags and chanting slogans like "The system has got to die, hella hella Occupy."

The crowd appears to be blocking about a dozen trucks from entering and exiting the port.

The daylong protest began early this morning when hundreds of protesters marched to the port and blocked several entrances.

Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin said the protest caused "sporadic disruptions" and delays but that all terminals were open early this afternoon and traffic was flowing in and out of the port.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said the protest was mostly peaceful but that two people were arrested outside the port's America Terminal at 1599 Maritime St. shortly before noon for failing to comply with a police order to stop blocking a driveway.

The marches are part of a West Coast port blockade today organized by the Occupy movement that is taking place in cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland and Seattle.

Charles Smith, 68, of Richmond was one of the porters who took to the streets today to show his support.

Smith, a Vietnam War veteran, who has been protesting since 3:30 a.m. is representing the United Public Workers for Action. Smith said he was active in Vietnam War protests and noted some key differences between demonstrations then and now.

"The people are a very unusual mix of people. You didn't have that kind of mix then," he said.

Citing lack of jobs and increasing debt from college tuitions, Smith said, "The thing that's different is the young people have no future."

Not everyone who turned out today was in favor of the protests. One man who stood at the corner of 14th street and Broadway held a sign that read "Occupy attacks working people."

Joel Hume, a truck driver for C.R. England, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, was waiting in line at Berths 30-32 with a truckload of beef and pork this morning as protesters gathered at the gates.

"Raising awareness about income inequality is good, but I don't agree with their methods," Hume said.

He said, "I want to see things changed as well, but they shouldn't prevent people from doing their jobs. They're taking food out of peoples' mouths."

150 longshoremen sent home without pay

About 150 longshoremen at the Port of Oakland were sent home without pay today because of the protest at the port, according to a union spokesman.

Craig Merrilees of the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union said terminal operators at the port had asked for about 200 union members to come to work for them today but only about 50 members were able to work without disruption.

Merrilees said the other 150 union members "ran into protesters and police officers" when they tried to report to work and felt that it wasn't safe for them to enter marine terminals.

He said those workers stood by in a safe area for about an hour before the terminal operators decided to send them home because they agreed that it wouldn't be safe for them to work at the port today.

"If workers feel any condition is unsafe they will stand down," Merrilees said.

According to Merrilees, no longshoremen workers have been requested to work at the port tonight.

He said he doesn't know how many longshoremen workers terminal operators will request for shifts at the port Tuesday.

Many longshoremen work on a day-to-day basis and terminal operators often don't request them until a few hours before a shift begins, Merrilees said.

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occupy oakland, protest, port of oakland, east bay news
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