Occupy Wall Street protesters shut down West Coast ports
Thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters blocked cargo trucks at West Coast ports from San Diego to Anchorage Dec. 12, forcing terminals in Oakland, Portland and Longview to halt operations. Police used "flash-bang" percussion grenades to disperse protesters who blocked an entrance to a Port of Seattle terminal. Protesters responded with hurled debris, and several were arrested. The march to the Port of Oakland was led by Scott Olsen, the Marine Corps veteran who was gravely wounded when he was struck in the head by a tear-gas canister during a clash between police and Occupy Oakland protesters in October. 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 further such actions. "The truckers are still here, but there's nobody here to unload their stuff," protest organizer Boots Riley said. "We shut down the Port of Oakland for the daytime shift and we're coming back in the evening. Mission accomplished." (San Diego Union-Tribune, CBS, AP, Dec. 12)
The "Shut Down Wall Street on the Waterfront" campaign was initiated from Oakland. The Occupy Oakland General Assembly unanimously adopted a proposal Nov. 18 calling for the "blockade and disruption of the economic apparatus of the 1% with a coordinated shutdown of ports on the entire West Coast on December 12." The motion declared solidarity with Longshore Union (ILWU) members in Longview, Wash., in their struggle against grain terminal operator EGT. The company has refused to hire ILWU members and is now in a drawn-out battle with the 4,000 unionists who work the Pacific Northwest's grain elevators. In September, ILWU picketers massed on railroad tracks at Longview by the hundreds to block grain shipments. Police used clubs and pepper spray on the union protesters, and made 19 arrests.
But Occupiers planned the Dec. 12 shutdown without consulting with the union, and the ILWU put out a statement to its locals disclaiming support for the action. "The ILWU has a long history of democracy," wrote union president Bob McElrath. "Part of that historic democracy is the hard-won right to chart our own course to victory."
Kari Koch of Occupy Portland told Labor Notes website that activists had been leafleting at shift changes at the city's port for a week. "We would not be doing this action if we didn’t have any support from the rank and file," Koch said. But she admitted that Occupiers didn't call ILWU Local 8 there—although they did send an e-mail. Koch said Occupiers were concerned the local could be legally liable if it coordinated with protesters. (Labor Notes, Dec. 12)
See our last post on the Occupation movement.