Protesters shut down operations at Oakland’s port on Wednesday in demonstrations against economic inequality and police brutality, which turned tense as the night wore on.
The protest by 5,000 people fell short of paralysing the northern California city that has been at the forefront of anti-Wall Street protests after a former US marine was badly wounded during a march.
But as evening fell, an official said maritime operations at the Oakland port, which handles about $39bn (£24bn) a year in imports and exports, had been “effectively shut down”.
“Maritime area operations will resume when it is safe and secure to do so,” the port said in a statement.
A port spokesman said officials hoped to reopen the facility on Thursday morning.
Protesters, who streamed across an overpass to gather in front of the port gates, stood on top of tractor-trailers stopped in the middle of the street.
Others climbed on to scaffolding over rail tracks as a band played a version of the Led Zeppelin song Whole Lotta Love, using amplifiers powered by stationary bike generators.
“The reason I’m here is I’m sick and tired of trying to figure out where I should put my vote between the lesser of two evils,” student Sarah Daniel, 28, said at the port.
The atmosphere turned tense after a protester was apparently struck by a car in downtown Oakland, and incorrect reports spread that the person had died. Acting Oakland police chief, Howard Jordan, later said the pedestrian was taken to a local hospital for treatment of injuries that were not life-threatening.
As the night wore on, small groups were seen in local TV images running through the streets, trying to start small fires or climbing on top of moving television news vans.
At one point, several people appeared to force open the driver’s-side door of a news van, but after a few tense moments the door closed again and the van drove away safely.
The anti-Wall Street activists, who complain bitterly about a financial system they believe benefits mainly corporations and the wealthy, aim to disrupt commerce with a special focus on banks and other symbols of corporate America.
The demonstrations centred on Frank H Ogawa Plaza adjacent to city hall, scene of a standoff last week between police and protesters.
Protesters, prior to marching on the port, also blocked the downtown intersection of 14th street and Broadway, where ex-marine Scott Olsen was seriously wounded with a head injury during a clash with police on 25 October.
Windows were smashed at several Oakland banks and a Whole Foods market, with pictures of the damage posted on Twitter.
Few uniformed police officers were spotted at the rallies, but Jordan said demonstrators would not be allowed to march beyond the gates of the port. He blamed the vandalism and unruliness on a small group he identified as anarchists.
Local union leaders, while generally sympathetic to the protesters, said their contracts prohibited them from proclaiming an official strike.
Oakland Unified School District spokesman, Troy Flint, said more than 300 teachers had stayed home, most of those having made formal requests the night before.
“We did have to scramble a little bit to cover the extra absences,” Flint said, adding that some classes were combined but no students were left unsupervised.
Other residents such as Rebecca Leung, 33, who works at an architectural lighting sales company, went about their ordinary activities. Leung said she generally supported the protests.
“I don’t really feel striking is necessary. I work for a small company, I don’t work for Bank of America,” she said.
The owner of a flower shop near the plaza protest site, meanwhile, said weeks of noisy rallies and ongoing encampment had hurt his small business.
“Business has not been the same. Everything has gone downhill around here, the noise, the ambience and the customers,” the man, who identified himself as Usoro, said. “I can’t afford to close down.”
Olsen remains in an Oakland hospital in a stable condition.
Protest organisers say Olsen, 24, was struck by a teargas canister fired by police. Jordan opened an investigation into the incident but has not said how he believes Olsen was hurt.
Elsewhere, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, told Wall Street protesters he would take action if circumstances warranted, saying the encampments and demonstrations were “really hurting small businesses and families”.
In downtown Seattle, about 300 rain-soaked protesters blocked the street outside the Sheraton hotel where Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of the biggest US bank, JPMorgan Chase Co, was speaking at an event.
Earlier in the day, five protesters were arrested for trespassing after chaining themselves to fixtures inside a Chase bank branch, Seattle police said.
In Los Angeles, several hundred protesters marched through the downtown area in solidarity with their Oakland counterparts, while in Virginia protesters bought alarm whistles at their encampment in a public park in Charlottesville because women were concerned about their safety overnight.
, economic inequality
, lesser of two evils
, northern california city
, police brutality
, street protests
Categories: The Western Press