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Occupy activists face growing criticism after failed port shutdown bid December 14, 2011

Occupy protesters were facing growing criticism over Monday’s attempt to shut down the ports of America’s west coast, with unions condemning the action that left hundreds of its members unable to work.

Terminals were effectively closed at Longview, Oakland and Portland, but plans to shut down the entire west coast failed after other protests saw relatively small turnouts.

Protesters have defended the attempted shutdown, claiming unions were unable to offer their support because they were “constrained” by anti-union legislation – and insisting they had the backing of rank-and-file workers.

The Occupy movement hoped to shut down the ports in support of an International Longshore and Warehouse Union battle in Longview, Washington, but the action never had the ILWU’s backing, with senior union figures accusing protesters of being “arrogant, disrespectful and misguided” in the run-up to Monday.

Craig Merrilees, communications director at the ILWU, told the Guardian on Tuesday that in Oakland “three shifts of workers lost a day’s pay, and many other port workers were in that situation”.

“I’m sure the union president would want to emphasise that the cause of the 99% and the problem of corporate greed in America is a serious one, and efforts to address that are to be saluted and supported,” he said.

“But it shouldn’t happen at the expense of respecting the democratic structure and process of the ILWU and any other union.”

Asked to what extent the shutdown had the support of ILWU members, Merrilees said it was hard to know, but pointed to the fact that Long Beach port – the second largest in the US – remained fully functional, with workers turning up to their shifts, despite Occupy LA and Occupy San Diego activists protesting there.

Occupiers argued that the lack of official union endorsement is because leaders have their hands tied. Protesters insist they had the backing of workers.

“Although we are working with and reaching out to rank-and-file port workers, we understand that labor unions are constrained under reactionary, anti-union federal legislation such as Taft-Hartley, passed during the cold war to reverse the gains of labor under the Depression-era Wagner Act, from taking job actions on the basis of solidarity or for political causes or demands,” a statement on the Occupy The Ports website said.

However, unions’ comments distancing themselves from the shutdown seem to have gone beyond adhering to legislative constraints.

In Vancouver the British Columbia Federation of Labour said it “does not support” the shutdown action, “or any action by the Occupy Vancouver group at Vancouver area ports that seeks to prevent our members from carrying out their assigned duties and working safely.

“[The federation] notes that the demonstration will not constitute a picket line as defined in the BC Federation of Labour’s picket line policy.”

In Oakland, the Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council went even further, with its secretary-treasurer, Andreas Cluver, telling the San Francisco Chronicle that no union at the port was in support of the shutdown.

An open letter signed by five truck drivers pledged support for the Occupy port protests, and several union members served on planning committees for the action, but the lack of hard figures made it difficult to gauge true support for Monday’s action.

The success of the port shutdown varied up and down the west coast. In Oakland, a city with a rich history of protest where thousands of protesters successfully shut down the port last month, the day went to plan, with Occupiers picketing the port in the morning and remaining in place for almost 24 hours.

Protesters in Portland shut three out of four terminals at the city’s port, while at Longview – scene of the ongoing battle between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and terminal operator EGT which inspired Monday’s shutdown – the terminal was also closed.

Attempts to shut down other west coast ports, however, were less successful. The Port of Seattle said there had been “minimum impact to cargo movement”, although seattlepi.com said around 100 protesters had prevented traffic from entering during the afternoon.

Similarly, in Vancouver about 100 protesters delayed between 40 and 50 trucks, but the port did not close. Maxim Winther, acting as a spokesman for Occupy Vancouver was candid in his assessment of the event.

“Regarding turnout today, I think it’s clear we need more time to educate the public and educate each other on what these issues are and to really find actions and issues that do galvanise the public,” he told Canadian Business.

The majority of the comments on social networking sites seemed positive as the protests unfolded on Monday, although the backing did not seem unanimous, as it has for previous Occupy actions, with some discussion on the west coast port shutdown Facebook page over whether the action was the best move.

“While I agree with the idea behind the Occupy movement, you are proving nothing by shutting down the freeways and the port; all of which are “occupied” by working class people,” wrote one commenter.

“Those corrupt individuals whom you oppose are not in the port or the waterfront. Please don’t be so foolish. You are alienating a large portion of your base supporters.”

That prompted the response: “Where is your solidarity? You just called the Occupy movement foolish. Corrupt individuals are in the port.”

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Protesters halt operations at some western ports December 13, 2011


December 13, 2011

by legitgov

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Protesters halt operations at some western ports 13 Dec 2011 After their successful attempts to block trucks and curb business at busy ports up and down the West Coast, some Occupy Wall Street protesters plan to continue their blockades and keep staging similar protests. Thousands of demonstrators forced shipping terminals in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Longview, Wash., to halt parts of their operations Monday and some intend to keep their blockade attempts ramped up overnight. The movement, which sprang up this fall against what it sees as corporate greed and economic inequality, focused on the ports as the “economic engines for the elite.”

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Occupy DC protesters arrested after building wooden structure in park December 5, 2011

US park police have arrested Occupy DC protesters who refused to dismantle an unfinished wooden structure erected in a local park overnight.

Protesters began constructing the wooden building on Saturday, but on Sunday police told them they needed a permit for such a structure and gave them an hour to disassemble it.

When the protesters failed to comply, officers on horseback moved in. Officers removed several protesters from the structure and arrested them, then started breaking down the structure.

Legba Carrefour, a participant in the Occupy DC protest, said 12 to 20 people had been arrested by mid-afternoon and several protesters remained on the structure in a standoff with officers. The police could not be reached for an official arrest count.

Some of the surrounding streets have been closed by police.

Local authorities around the US have sent in police to remove encampments set up by supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement protesting against economic injustice and corporate greed.

In Portland, Oregon, authorities said riot police moved into a park area and arrested several anti-Wall Street protesters on Saturday night after they refused to leave.

Occupy Portland demonstrators set up tents in the park earlier in the day and vowed to stay through the winter, defying city officials who said overnight camping would not be allowed.

Police Sgt Pete Simpson said officers began detaining protesters around 8.30pm, after the park was closed half an hour early. He said several arrests were made but he did not have an exact count.

The Portland protesters had been without an encampment since police swept through a downtown site three weeks ago.

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Occupy protesters take message about corporate greed to Black Friday shoppers in Calif. November 28, 2011


November 26, 2011

by legitgov

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Occupy protesters take message about corporate greed to Black Friday shoppers in Calif. 26 Nov 2011 Anti-Wall Street protesters took their message about corporate greed to Black Friday shoppers, staging demonstrations in commercial areas in California on one of the busiest days of the year for retailers and bargain-hunters. In San Francisco, protesters demonstrated in the streets near Union Square during the annual Macy’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony Friday evening. Lines of police officers in riot gear faced off with dozens of demonstrators who were trying to discourage shoppers from shopping at Macy’s and other stores in the popular tourist area.

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‘Unequal’ US sees Occupy clashes October 26, 2011

Protests have sprung up across the US, mobilising thousands, in support of Occupy Wall Street

Income inequality in the US has sharply increased in recent decades, a bipartisan analysis has revealed.

The Congressional Budget Office said income had trebled for the richest 1% between 1979 and 2007.

Meanwhile, a major poll shows anxiety for the future is high, with a majority saying the US is “on the wrong track”.

The findings emerged as police used tear gas and mass arrests to force Occupy Wall Street protesters out of their camps in Atlanta and Oakland.

Some 50 people were arrested in Atlanta and 85 were held overnight in Oakland, California.

Occupy Oakland protesters are insisting they will return to their protest site only a few hours after police forced hundreds of people to clear out of the camp.

Distrust of government

Many Occupy Wall Street protesters say they are making a stand against corporate greed and income inequality in the US.

As rallies continued, the report from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office indicated the nation’s highest earners saw their household income almost triple in the years between 1979 and 2007.

Oakland has seen two nights of unrest at the Occupy protest

After tax income increased by 275% for the wealthiest 1% of Americans but by just 18% for the poorest 20%, the report said.

In addition, the report revealed that in 2005-2007, the years immediately preceding the financial crisis, the top 20% of the population earned more after-tax income than the entire bottom 80%.

Democratic House Representative Sander Levin said the findings confirm what Americans already knew.

“The rules have been changed by the unfair tax policies of the last decade and our tax code is doing less to level the playing field than it was in the past.”

The poll, conducted by the New York Times and CBS News, shows distrust of government is at its highest level ever.

Almost half of those asked said they thought the sentiment behind the Occupy Wall Street protests reflected the views of most Americans.

Two-thirds said wealth should be more evenly distributed in the US.

Some 28% of respondents believe the policies of President Barack Obama favour the rich, although a strong majority – 69% – said that was the effect of Republican policies.

Baton rounds

The violence in Georgia and California comes as the Occupy Wall Street movement prepares to mark its sixth week of continuous protest.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning police moved into Woodruff Park in Atlanta, Georgia, after issuing warnings that demonstrators should leave.

Around 50 protesters were arrested after midnight, as helicopters circled overhead and trained spotlights into the city square.

In Oakland, California, riot police used tear gas and baton rounds and made around 85 arrests to clear protesters from Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort was among those arrested in Atlanta.

Referring to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, he said: “He’s using all these resources … This is the most peaceful place in Georgia.

“At the urging of the business community, he’s moving people out. Shame on him.”

One protest organiser, Tim Franzen, said the city was facing a “crisis of priorities”.

The mayor told the Associated Press news agency he was upset that a hip-hop concert with a crowd of 600 people was held over the weekend without a permit or security guards.

He said he also had security concerns after hearing reports that a man in the park was carrying an assault rifle.

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