Occupy movement succeeds in coordinated Wall street on the Waterfront port shutdowns
On Monday, December 12, in response to police attacks on Occupy camps across the nation, the Occupy Movement effectively shut down sea ports up and down the West Coast, including in Oakland, Portland, Seattle, and Longview, with partial shutdowns or support actions at Long Beach, San Diego, Hueneme (Ventura County), and Vancouver, B.C. The “Wall Street on the Waterfront” campaign targeted the ports as sites of the corporate and financial power of the 1 %, and were particularly directed at the investment banking giant Goldman Sachs and grain exporter EGT, which has been in conflict with the ILWU/Longshore workers for refusing to hire union dockworker. The search from profits of these and other multinational corporations affect people’s daily lives around the world, from determining the global flows of commodities and capital, to expropriating agricultural lands from indigenous peoples.
The coordinated shutdown, with support by Longshore workers, Teamsters, and independent truckers, demonstrates the continuing vitality and widespread appeal of the Occupy Movement. Support actions were held in numerous other cities. In Bellingham, WA protesters locked themselves to rail lines carrying Goldman Sachs goods. In Denver, CO, Salt Lake City, UT, and Albuquerque, NM, demonstrators blockaded Walmart distribution centers to protest its low wages and lack of adequate health care for workers. In New York, Occupy Wall Street protesters stormed financial institutions. Other support actions occurred in Houston, Tacoma, Coos Bay, Anchorage, Hawaii, Canada, Japan and elsewhere.
Despite concerted efforts to thwart the Oakland Port blockade by Mayor Jean Quan, the ILWU International leadership (which mounted an international media campaign) and the Port itself, which spent tens of thousands of dollars taking out full page newspaper ads, the Oakland Port blockade was a success. Teamsters did not go to work, and with few exceptions, Longshore workers and independent truckers did not cross the picket lines. A group of truck drivers parked their trucks and helped block a gate.
In dramatic contrast with the ILWU International leadership, rank and file workers have expressed extensive solidarity and support. For example, ILWU Local 21 President Dan Coffman told a crowd of 10,000 in Longview, WA: “On behalf of Local 21, we want to thank the occupy movement for shedding light on the practices of the EGT and for the inspiration of our members.”
In an “Open Letter from America’s Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports” (http://westcoastportshutdown.org/content/open-letter-americas-truck-drivers-occupy-ports), port drivers wrote: “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. … Poverty and pollution are like a plague at the ports. … Just like Wall Street doesn’t have to abide by rules, our industry isn’t bound to regulation. …We receive Third World wages and drive sweatshops on wheels. … We have never recovered from losing our basic rights as employees in America.”
Port Of Oakland Was Shut Down For 24 Hours
After the arbitrator sent workers home, ending the morning shift, 5-10,000 protesters re- assembled in the afternoon and marched from two locations to the Port to picket the evening shift. Marine veteran Scott Olsen, recovering after Oakland Police shot him in the head with a tear gas canister during an Occupy protest in October, led the march, joined by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Teamsters, the Feminist Block, and the Tactical Action Committee, among others. In response, Port workers cancelled the evening shift, and rescheduled it for 3:00 am.
As pledged in the event of police repression at any of the port actions (see www.occupyoakland.org/2011/11/occupy-oakland-calls-for-total-west-coast-port-shutdown-on-1212 ), several hundred protesters continued to picket at the Port gates until workers canceled the substitute shift and departed around 3:45 am.
The Port protests were peaceful, even as police in various cities rioted, caused injuries, and made arrests. For example, Seattle police used teargas. Houston police, hiding their names and badge numbers with tape, snatched protesters whom the fire department concealed under a giant inflatable tent while the police made arrests. Houston Police on horseback later re-attacked the crowd. In San Diego, police broke the picket line and violently arrested protestors.
Proposed Resolution by Oakland City Council
On December 15, Oakland City Council members De La Fuente & Schaaf introduced an emergency resolution calling on Mayor Quan and the City Administrator to “use whatever lawful tools we have, including enforcement of all state laws and local municipal code regulations and requirements, to prevent future shut downs or disruptions of any port operations.”
“Threats of even greater repression by Oakland officials illustrates that they are more concerned with protecting business as usual for the one percent than addressing the concerns of the rest of us” said organizer Barucha Peller.
The divisive and repressive tactics of elected officials, global corporations and police goons will only strengthen our resolve to fight back with direct action, because we know that another world is possible.