Evening march disrupts business at Port of Oakland
on December 12, 2011
Thousands of people marched to the Port of Oakland on Monday evening, disrupting business at one of the nation’s busiest ports. The evening march capped off a day of planned actions at the port by Occupy Oakland protesters, who were trying to shut down the port to support port truck drivers in Oakland and across the country, as well as longshore workers in Longview, Washington who are engaged in a labor dispute with their employer, EGT Development.
The evening march was the second to reach the port and disrupt business on Monday. Just before dawn Monday, a crowd of hundreds marched from West Oakland BART to the port and disrupted business, preventing big rig trucks from delivering cargo. Port officials maintained that the port remained operational throughout the morning, though no ships were loaded or unloaded today and some longshoremen did not report to work.
According to a 7 pm press release from the Port of Oakland, there is “no terminal activity scheduled for tonight” and several of the port’s seven terminals experienced delays today, with some closing down early to “avoid further disruption.”
The second march on the Port of Oakland on Monday began after a 3 pm rally at 14th and Broadway at Frank Ogawa Plaza, the site of the Occupy Oakland encampment, which had twice been raided by police, resulting in the arrest of protesters. Shortly after 4 pm, a large crowd began marching down 14th Street and toward the port, chanting “Whose ports? Our ports!” Before reaching the port, the march travelled down mostly residential streets, with some residents coming outside to see what the noise was all about.
The protest was part of a coordinated effort by other Occupy groups on the West Coast, including Portland, Los Angeles and Long Beach. According to Port of Oakland officials, operators at the Port of Portland shut down two terminals because of protests on Monday.
The Monday march was also the second blockade of the port organized by Occupy Oakland protesters in a little over a month. On November 2, thousands of people marched on the port and shut down operations on a “day of action” following a general strike.
Many people who marched Monday said they were inspired by the events of November 2, either because of what they witnessed firsthand, or because of what they learned on news reports. Bob Loney, a 62-year-old resident of Fairfield who was carrying a gas mask on his hip, said he did not attend the November 2 march, but said that as a small business owner, he’s frustrated at what he called “Wall Street greed” as working-class people are laid off. “This has been a long time coming,” Loney said as the march entered the port. “We need to change our government so it’s set up to help the people, not the corporations.”
Loney said he’ll never forget being a part of Monday’s action. “It’s pretty inspiring to hear people [chant] ‘This is what democracy looks like,’” he said. “Because it is.”
Before the march reached the port, shortly before 5 pm, word began to spread among protesters that operations at the port had already been shut down. Police presence appeared minimal, with Oakland police officers on motorcycles clearing traffic on streets ahead and on either side of the march.
When the march reached the port, police had cleared traffic and protesters took up both sides of the four-lane road. After reaching the far end of the port, the protest stopped and what seemed like a party began. A punk rock band played and dozens of protesters climbed on parked big rigs parked in the street on Middle Harbor Road inside the port.
“All the objectives of the march were successful,” said a 28-year-old man from Santa Cruz named Dan who declined to give his last name. “We shut down the port.”
Not everyone was satisfied with the day’s results. Dennis Davis, a trucker carrying a load from Des Moines, Iowa, said he had been waiting in a parked truck since Sunday evening in order to deliver a load and hadn’t been paid. As he sat in the front seat of the rig talking on a cell phone, protesters streamed by on either side. “It’s a real pain in the butt,” Davis said of the march.
Earlier in the day, port officials released a statement that made a similar complaint. “Today’s disruptions have been costly to Port workers and their families in terms of lost wages and shifts, to Oakland and the region in terms of lost tax revenue, and to one of the most progressive Ports in the country in term of draining already limited resources that should be focused on real solutions to the problems plaguing our economy,” read the statement.
At the port at 7 pm, a crowd of thousands of protesters remained for a General Assembly meeting, with many deciding to stay at the port to disrupt a 3 am shift of port workers. A march to the port later tonight at 12:45 am that leaves from 7th and Adeline was also announced by Occupy Oakland organizers.
You can see Oakland North’s complete coverage of Occupy Oakland here.
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