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More than 1,000 Occupy protesters block western shipping ports in California, Oregon and Washington December 13, 2011


December 13, 2011

by legitgov

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More than 1,000 Occupy protesters block western shipping ports in California, Oregon and Washington –’Shutdown Wall Street on the Waterfront’ protesters hoped to cut into profits of corporations that run docks 13 Dec 2011 More than 1,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters blocked cargo trucks at busy West Coast ports Monday, forcing some shipping terminals in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Longview, Wash., to halt operations. While the protests attracted far fewer people than the 10,000 who turned out Nov. 2 to shut down Oakland’s port, organizers declared victory and promised more demonstrations to come.

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VIDEO: Occupy at Oakland and Long Beach

Hundreds of Occupy protesters blocked gates at some of America’s busiest west coast ports on Monday, causing the partial shutdown of several facilities.

The demonstrators hope their actions will cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks.

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Occupy protesters disrupt ports across US west coast

More than 1,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters blocked cargo trucks at busy US west coast ports on Monday, forcing some shipping terminals in Oakland, California, Portland, Oregon, and Washington state to halt operations.

While the protests attracted far fewer people than the 10,000 who turned out on 2 November to shut down Oakland’s port, organisers declared victory and promised more demonstrations to come.

“The truckers are still here but there’s nobody here to unload their stuff,” said protest organiser Boots Riley. “We shut down the Port of Oakland for the daytime shift and we’re coming back in the evening. Mission accomplished.”

Organisers hoped the “Shut Down Wall Street on the Waterfront” protests would cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks and send a message that their Occupy movement is not finished.

The closures’ economic impact, however, was not immediately clear.

The longshoremen’s union did not officially support the protests but its membership cited a provision in its contract that allowed workers to ask to stay off the job if they felt the conditions were unsafe.

Some went home with several hours’ pay, while others left with nothing.

“I hope they keep it up,” said Oakland Longshoreman DeAndre Whitten, who lost about $500. “I have no problem with it. But my wife wasn’t happy about it.”

Others, such as the truck drivers who had to wait in long lines as protesters blocked gates, were angry, saying the demonstrators were harming the very people they were trying to help.

“This is a joke. What are they protesting?” said Christian Vega, who sat in his truck carrying a load of recycled paper. He said the delay was costing him $600. “It only hurts me and the other drivers.

“We have jobs and families to support and feed,” he said. “Most of them don’t.”

From Long Beach, California, to as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, and Vancouver, British Columbia, protesters beat drums and carried signs as they marched outside port gates.

Rain dampened some protests. Several hundred showed up at the Port of Long Beach and left after several hours.

The movement, which sprang up this autumn in New York against what it sees as corporate greed and economic inequality, is focusing on the ports as the “economic engines for the elite”. It comes weeks after police raids cleared out most of their tent camps.

The port protests are a “response to show them that it’s going to hurt their pocketbooks if they attack us brutally like that”, Riley said.

Protesters have mainly targeted two west coast companies: port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT. Investment bank Goldman Sachs owns a major stake in SSA Marine and has been a frequent target of protesters.

They say they are standing up for workers against the port companies, which have had high-profile clashes with union workers lately. Longshoremen in Longview, for example, have had a longstanding dispute with EGT, which employs workers from a different union to staff its terminal. The longshoremen’s union says the jobs rightfully belong to them.

EGT chief executive Larry Clarke said: “Disrupting port activities makes it harder for US manufacturing, the farm community and countless others to sell to customers and contribute to our nation’s economic recovery.”

While the demonstrations were largely peaceful and isolated to a few gates at each port, local officials in the longshoremen’s union and port officials or shipping companies determined that the conditions were unsafe for workers.

In Oakland several hundred people picketed before dawn and blocked some trucks from going through at least two entrances.

A long line of big rigs sat outside one of the entrances, unable to drive into the port. Police in riot gear stood by as protesters marched in an oval and carried signs.

Shipping companies and the union agreed to send home about 150 of the 200 morning shift workers. Protesters cheered when they learned about the partial shutdown and then dispersed.

Scott Olsen, the Marine Corps veteran who was struck in the head during a clash between police and Occupy Oakland protests in October, led nearly 1,000 people marching back to the Port of Oakland on Monday evening.

A spokesman for the longshoremen’s union said shippers at the port would typically request 100 to 200 workers for the overnight shift but weren’t asking for any on Monday due to the protests. Port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur said this would bring nighttime operations to a virtual halt.

In Seattle police used “flash-bang” percussion grenades to disperse protesters who blocked an entrance to a Port of Seattle facility on Monday evening.

In Portland a few hundred protesters blocked semi-trailers from making deliveries at two major terminals.

Security concerns were raised when police found two people in camouflage clothing with a gun, sword and walkie-talkies.

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Occupy aims to shut down West Coast ports December 12, 2011

4.01pm: Longshoremen at the Longview port have gone home for the day after an Occupy demonstration at the port, according to AP.

The ongoing battle between Longview port terminal owners EGT and the International Longshore Workers Union is the main reason why Occupy protesters are bidding to close down the west coast ports.

AP said with workers having left the Longview port the terminal was “essentially shut”.

The International Longshore Warehouse Union sent home its workers out of concern for their “health and safety,” spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said.

“Our people are willing and able to go to work,” Sargent said.

However, both the port and the union decided to shut down operations, said Port of Longview spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg. She said about 20 shifts would be affected. The port was handling one ship Monday.

Union workers would be paid for four hours of work, the union said.

The Longview rally, which numbered a few dozen people, was among a series of coordinated Occupy Wall Street protests at the West Coast’s busiest ports. Demonstrators hoped the rallies would cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks.

3.19pm ET, 12.19pm PDT: The coalition for clean and safe ports website has an open letter “from America’s port truck drivers on Occupy the ports”. It’s written by five truck drivers in support of today’s action.

We are inspired that a non-violent democratic movement that insists on basic economic fairness is capturing the hearts and minds of so many working people. Thank you “99 Percenters” for hearing our call for justice. We are humbled and overwhelmed by recent attention. Normally we are invisible.

Today’s demonstrations will impact us. While we cannot officially speak for every worker who shares our occupation, we can use this opportunity to reveal what it’s like to walk a day in our shoes for the 110,000 of us in America whose job it is to be a port truck driver. It may be tempting for media to ask questions about whether we support a shutdown, but there are no easy answers. Instead, we ask you, are you willing to listen and learn why a one-word response is impossible?

We love being behind the wheel. We are proud of the work we do to keep America’s economy moving. But we feel humiliated when we receive paychecks that suggest we work part time at a fast-food counter. Especially when we work an average of 60 or more hours a week, away from our families.

2.45pm ET, 11.45am PDT: Occupy protesters largely retreated from the Port of Long Beach, California, on Monday morning after police forced them out of their blockade of one of the piers, writes Ed Carrasco.

Despite a couple of arrests, the demonstration was largely peaceful as occupiers blocked the entrance to Pier J, where SSA Marine, a shipping company partly owned by Goldman Sachs, has operations.

“We’re here to engage in tactics to bite the profits out of people who have been robbing us,” said Jason Ball, a PhD student and activist from UCLA as he and his friends gathered in front of Pier J. “They’re closing down our homes, messing with our healthcare and raising our tuition. Yet they expect us to sit back and let the profit machine run as normal. Not today.”

Although wet weather greeted the 250 or so demonstrators, it did not deter them from marching before 6am to the front of SSA Marine. The result was a backup of traffic of trucks and workers attempting to enter Pier J.

Toni Kukreja, an organizer from Occupy Los Angeles, said that blocking traffic from getting into SSA Marine was not part of the original plan of demonstrating against Goldman Sachs and the like.

“We were supposed to go into a designated area for protesters, but the Long Beach Police Department did not coordinate with Harbor Security,” she said. “[The police] have fed our cause and it’s a port shutdown, so no one can go in or out.”

However, a few dozen police officers pushed demonstrators away from SSA Marine in an attempt to return them to Harry Bridges Memorial Park, in close proximity to the Queen Mary. Many of the 250 resorted to blocking Harbor Scenic Drive, the road leading into Pier J after police arrested one of their members.

Police responded by dispatching more officers in riot helmets wielding batons into the area and surrounded the demonstrators, calling the gathering an “unlawful assembly” and ordering them out immediately.

Torrential downpours and the police deployment made protesters slowly retreat from the street and by 9.30am, Harbor Scenic Drive was largely cleared out.

While some protesters claimed victory in what they called a disruption of port activity, a port spokesman said the demonstrations did not affect trade at one of the nation at one of America’s largest container port complexes.

“There were some traffic disruptions in Pier J but as far as shipping goes, it had no impact,” said John Pope, media relations manager for the Port of Long Beach.

2pm ET, 11am PDT: Here’s a summary of events so far today:


Occupy protesters on have shut down at least two ports on the west coast of the US. Occupy Oakland and Occupy Portland picketed terminals at their ports, preventing workers from beginning their shifts. Protesters say the action is in support of the International Longshore Workers Union.

An attempt by Occupy LA and Occupy San Diego to shut down the Port of Long Beach, just south of Los Angeles, was less successful. Protesters blocked access to the port for around an hour, but were cleared from the area by police, with at least two arrests.

In New York Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested during a protest in support of the west coast action. The New York Times reported that 17 people were arrested after entering the World Financial Center – a Brookfield properties building. Brookfield owns Zuccotti Park where Occupy Wall Street was based until last month.

On the west coast many protesters are preparing to picket ports again this evening, to prevent longshore workers from beginning night shifts. Although protesters say they support the ILWU, the union has disowned the action, and AP reported that some workers were unhappy with being prevented from getting to work.

1.49pm ET, 10.49am PDT: While Occupy protesters on the west coast blocked ports, occupiers in New York staged their own demonstration, with about 200 people gathering at the World Financial Center, according to the New York Times.

Some 17 people were arrested during the protest, which apparently sought to portray Goldman Sachs as “a giant squid with tentacles that spread throughout the global financial system”, the Times said.

The World Financial Center is owned by Brookfield properties, which also owns Zuccotti Park – Occupy Wall Street’s base before they were cleared out by police last month.

1.42pm ET, 10.42am: Some of the workers prevented from accessing Oakland “weren’t thrilled at the demonstrations”, AP reports.

“This is a joke. What are they protesting?” said Christian Vega, who sat in his truck carrying a load of recycled paper from Pittsburgh, part of a long line of big rigs unable to drive into the port in Oakland, California. He said the delay was costing him $600.

“It only hurts me and the other drivers. We have jobs and families to support and feed. Most of them don’t,” Vega said.

1.25pm ET, 10.25am PDT: The Port of Portland has also been shut down by Occupy protesters. David Osborn from Occupy Portland says hundreds gathered at 5.30am this morning, before splitting into two groups and shutting two terminals at the port.

There was a picket of probably about three to four hundred people at each terminal, Osborn said.

Most workers chose to respect our community picket, and did so by not trying to cross it. A few did, and we let them through, as we would. All in all we feel that there’s a great amount of support for this action and we know that from talking to rank and file longshoremen and others. They understand that we are doing this in solidarity with them, in their struggle, as well as our collective struggle for economic justice.

Osborn said protesters will rally again at 4pm and set up picket lines at the terminals, to prevent workers from beginning their evening shifts.

1.04pm ET, 10.04pm PDT: Occupy Oakland says they have successfully shut down the Port of Oakland.

From the Occupy Oakland alert system (group text messages sent out by Oakland organisers):

Arbitration has confirmed! We shut down the morning shift at the port! Good job everyone! Please come back for the 4pm and 5pm march

12.55pm ET, 9.55am PDT: This video from ABC shows scenes at the Port of Oakland this morning.

The reporter says protesters shut down “two terminals at least”, which tallies with what Francois Hughef told the Guardian earlier.

12.32pm ET, 9.32am PDT: There have been arrests at the Port of Long Beach, south of LA, where protesters from Occupy LA and Occupy San Diego have been attempting to block the port.

Freelance journalist and Occupy LA protester Ruth Fowler is at the port – where it’s pouring with rain – and says that although the port was closed for an hour this morning, police cleared protesters and it is now open.

The protesters came in and police told them there was a designated protest area, they ignored that, they occupied the road into the port and tried to shut down the port. They were successful in that for about an hour until the California Highway Patrol moved in and pushed them back.

Ruth says there were a couple of arrests, and the legal team are attempting to trace those arrested at the moment.

People are wondering around in the rain looking very sorry for themselves, everybody’s talking about where to go next. Talk of a march somewhere, there’s talk of shutting down LAX, everybody’s got a different plan.

11.45am ET, 8.45am PDT : I’ve just been speaking with Francois Hughef, who is involved in the Occupy Oakland shutdown of the Port of Oakland.

Hughef said around a thousand protesters marched to the port at 6am, and are blocking two terminals at the port – Hanjin and Trapac. SSA Marine had been the target, Hughef said (see previous post for why) but SSA did not have a ship this morning.

“There was zero police presence at the beginning,” Hughef said. “Once we got to the terminal there were 20 or so cops, but they haven’t really bothered the picket line.”

Protesters at Oakland are waiting for an arbitrator to rule whether workers should turn up to work at not. If the arbitrator deems conditions unsafe, Longshore workers will not work today and Oakland’s part of the shutdown will have been achieved. Hughef said he was confident the ruling would go protesters’ way.

Hughef said he has not seen any workers this morning, so has been unable to gauge their reaction.

11.13am ET, 8.13am PDT: Lots of people on Twitter seem unsure why Occupy protesters are shutting down the ports.

The Occupy The Ports website addresses this, describing today as a “a coordinated effort is underway to disrupt the economic machine that benefits the wealthiest individuals and corporations at the expense of the vast majority of the people of this planet”.

The ports of the West Coast are a huge source of profits for these modern day robber barons, who have closed our factories and outsourced our jobs, who poison our oceans and rivers, who exploit our brothers and sisters in their insatiable quest for profit.

In solidarity with the Longshore Workers and truck drivers and their struggles against companies like Goldman Sachs and EGT, we call on the people of the 99% to join us in this historic day of action. From San Diego to Los Angeles to Portland to Anchorage, we will show the economic overlords and financial vultures the true scope of our combined power. Together we are unstoppable.

The struggle against EGT referred to above refers to an ongoing International Longshore Workers’ Union battle with EGT in Longview, Washington.

EGT Development built and operates a terminal at Longview port in Washington, however the ILWU says the company has reneged on a Port of Longview contract that specified only ILWU labour could be used at the site. On 8 September hundreds of ILWU members stormed the terminal, a day after blocking railroads so grain could not reach Longview.

The Goldman Sachs battle relates to SSA Marine, which is 51% owned by Goldman Sachs. Occupy The Ports says SSA Marine “exemplifies the rising corporate greed that sinks all boats and that is ruining our economy for its own selfish profits”.

“SSA Marine is a war profiteer, that got a contract under the occupation of Iraq to run the port there to off load US war materiel [sic],” Occupy’s website says, as well as accusing SSA of being “anti-union”.

Their Shippers container trans-shipment facility, located in Carson on Sepulveda, is jurisdictionally considered part of the port under the law, and therefore should fall under the ILWU contract with the Pacific Maritime Association, but its workers are not so represented. Goldman Sachs, the parent company, got billions in bail-out funds, particularly via insurance giant AIG, which nearly failed because of its “credit default swaps” that helped fuel the housing bubble and then deepen its collapse. They are currently in the process of trying to evict a group of mostly migrant residents from a property (built on public land with public funds) in Harbor City that they control.

A potential problem for Occupy The Ports, however, is that the ILWU does not support the action in anyway. In fact, they have called for Occupy not to shut the ports. From the Guardian’s story over the weekend:

Craig Merrilees, communications director at the ILWU, told the Guardian that the union was “not supporting that at all”.

“[Occupy organisers] have been very disrespectful of the democratic decision-making process in the union and deliberately went around that process to call their own action without consulting workers,” Merrilees said.

“It’s the second time they’ve done it. The first time they had very little support from workers in their so-called general strike [the Occupy Oakland action on 2 November].

“This is being promoted by a group of people who apparently think they can call general strikes and workplace shutdowns without talking to workers and without involving the unions.”

Merrilees’s comments come after the Port of Oakland took out a full-page advertisement in the Oakland Tribune to ask protesters not to shut down the ports, saying it would “hurt working people and our economy”.

10.47am ET, 7.47am PDT: The ever-present @OakFoSho is live streaming from the Port of Oakland, and reports the port has been closed.

10.15am ET, 7.15am PDT: Thousands of protesters are expected to join in a shutdown of America’s west coast ports, with some picket lines already in place in California.

Occupations from Oakland, LA, San Diego, Tacoma, Seattle and more have united in a bid to stop all port activity on America’s west coast, in support of the International Longshore Workers Union’s (ILWU) battle with EGT in Longview, Washington.

Protesters will march to port terminals and create picket lines in the same way Occupy Oakland did last month, when their general strike shut down the port of Oakland. With pickets in place, local ILWU arbitrators are then expected to rule that longshore workers should not cross the lines for safety reasons, closing the ports.

“The West Coast ports will be blockaded on December 12th in solidarity with longshoremen and port truckers struggles against EGT and Goldman Sachs,” the west coast port shutdown website says.

The action has caused controversy, with the ILWU publicly disowning the protest last week – communications director Craig Merrilees telling the Guardian that the union was “not supporting that at all”.

“[Occupy organisers] have been very disrespectful of the democratic decision-making process in the union and deliberately went around that process to call their own action without consulting workers,” Merrilees said.

It’s the second time they’ve done it. The first time they had very little support from workers in their so-called general strike [the Occupy Oakland action on 2 November].

“This is being promoted by a group of people who apparently think they can call general strikes and workplace shutdowns without talking to workers and without involving the unions.

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port shutdown December 10, 2011

The Occupy movement will attempt to shut down all the major ports on the west coast of the US in support of a union battle in Longview, Washington, despite the union opposing the action.

Thousands of protesters from various west coast occupations are expected to take part on Monday 12 December. The action is intended to support a long-running International Longshore Workers’ Union (ILWU) fight to prevent a terminal operator using workers from a different union.

However, a row has broken out in advance of the shutdown, with the ILWU asking Occupy protesters to call off the action.

Occupy Oakland, which organised a “general strike” and shut down Oakland’s port in early November, has partnered with occupations including Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Tacoma and Seattle in a bid to stop all port activity on America’s west coast.

Protesters will march to port terminals and create picket lines in the same way Occupy Oakland did last month, aware that local ILWU arbitrators are then likely to rule that longshore workers should not cross the lines for safety reasons.

“The West Coast ports will be blockaded on December 12th in solidarity with longshoremen and port truckers struggles against EGT and Goldman Sachs,” the west coast port shutdown website says.

EGT Development built and operates a terminal at Longview port in Washington, however the ILWU says the company has reneged on a Port of Longview contract that specified only ILWU labour could be used at the site. On 8 September hundreds of ILWU members stormed the terminal, a day after blocking railroads so grain could not reach Longview.

Despite the apparently common interests, the ILWU has criticised Occupy protesters’ plans, with a senior figure accusing them of being “disrespectful, arrogant and misguided”.

Craig Merrilees, communications director at the ILWU, told the Guardian that the union was “not supporting that at all”.

“[Occupy organisers] have been very disrespectful of the democratic decision-making process in the union and deliberately went around that process to call their own action without consulting workers,” Merrilees said.

“It’s the second time they’ve done it. The first time they had very little support from workers in their so-called general strike [the Occupy Oakland action on 2 November].

“This is being promoted by a group of people who apparently think they can call general strikes and workplace shutdowns without talking to workers and without involving the unions.”

Merrilees’s comments come after the Port of Oakland took out a full-page advertisement in the Oakland Tribune to ask protesters not to shut down the ports, saying it would “hurt working people and our economy”.

Merrilees said no one had contacted the ILWU to consult it over the shutdown, which he said was a “suicidal strategy for the Occupy group, that’s being driven by extremists that are driving away allies and marginalising the movement”.

While the ILWU “supports the goals of the Occupy movement to call attention to the abuse on Wall Street and growing inequality”, Merrilees said, the 12 December shutdown was “alienating the allies and broad support that Occupy needs among the general public”.

He added that “most workers are really concerned about this”.

Protesters involved in planning the 12 December shutdown say they do have the support of rank-and-file union members – if not the ILWU leadership. Jared Lorio, who will take part, said that while the ILWU was not supporting the action, “nothing else could really be expected”.

“Legally they can’t be seen to support it as an organisation, as they are not in contract negotiations at the moment,” Lorio said.

“This action is in support of the longshoremen, not in support of the union itself as an organisation. That is a big distinction, on our part and theirs.”

Lorio said the lack of leadership support did not detract from the 12 December action. “I personally know for a fact that we do have rank-and-file support from longshoremen and the communities affected by the action.

“[The lack of support from the ILWU] sheds light on the fact that our unions have been hamstrung and made ineffective by laws designed to curtail workers organising for their rights to better pay and conditions in this country,” Lorio said.

Stan Woods, an ILWU member who supports the port shutdown, said he was “sorry [union leadership] had taken that stance” but even without their backing it was likely rank-and-file workers would honour picket lines.

Asked about Merrilees’s statement that most workers were concerned about the action, Woods said: “The ones I’ve spoke to aren’t, the ones I’ve spoke to are strongly in support of the Occupy movement.

“I guess we’ll see on December 12th.”

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