Thursday, December 15, 2011

2011-12-15 "West Coast port shutdown: Liberation News eyewitness reports" by William West, Doug Kauffman and Jane Cutter from "Liberation News"
On Dec. 12, the Occupy movement called for a West Coast port shutdown. Targeted ports included Anchorage; Maui; Portland, Tacoma, Longview, and Seattle, Wash.; Vancouver, B.C.; and Oakland, Los Angeles/Long Beach, San Diego and Hueneme, Calif. Solidarity actions were called in Bellingham, Wash., Houston, New York City, and other cities. Even as far away as Japan, the Doro Chibo railroad workers took action, highlighting their solidarity with the members of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 in Longview, who are fighting Japanese-owned transnational corporation EGT in a struggle for their survival. Liberation News was on the ground in Oakland, Long Beach and Seattle.

Oakland: Massive turnout frustrates police, shuts down two shifts -
Occupy supporters in the Bay Area successfully shut down the port of Oakland, the fifth largest port in the United States on Dec. 12. Unlike in some other cities, the outpouring of support was so strong that the police were powerless to stop the shutdown. The Occupy organizers had called for the shutdown to protest the police attacks on Occupy Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley, as well as to demand unionization of the truck drivers who work at the ports.
By 5:30 a.m., 1,500 people, including members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, had already gathered at the port entrance. The two largest terminals were shut down, and other work at the port was greatly reduced. Several truckers, their vehicles stalled in the road, honked their support.
By 4 p.m., people were gathering in many different intersections throughout Oakland to take different routes to the port. This reporter joined a group of hundreds who marched from West Oakland to join the main contingent. Chants included “What's disgusting? Union busting!” and “This system has got to die! Hella, hella Occupy!”
At the port, the various marches met and at least 10,000 people blocked the main entrance. Frustrated-looking members of the Oakland police helplessly watched as the huge crowd shut down all port activity for the evening. A group of young occupiers unfurled a sign reading “Protest is Fertile! Compost Capitalism!”

Long Beach: Police violence versus labor, international solidarity -
Over 1,000 students and workers gathered just outside of the Queen Mary in the Long Beach port at sunrise and marched on SSA Shipping Company, largely owned by banking giant Goldman Sachs. Contingents from Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy Long Beach took the lead on the action as other contingents joined from Occupy Las Vegas, Occupy Phoenix and Occupy Albuquerque.
Protesters quickly took the streets as they marched down Pier J, the site of SSA Shipping. Long Beach police attempted to block the street and corral protesters onto the sidewalk, but instead the demonstrators lost all fear of the police and broke through multiple police lines to form a massive picket that blockaded the shipping company.
The picket was extended in order to blockade both SSA Shipping and Occidental Oil, an oil conglomerate responsible for the mass theft of natural resources in the Middle East and Latin America. A standoff ensued for over an hour before police attacked the front line of protesters with batons, eventually trampling over several demonstrators and arresting them.
Protesters regrouped a quarter mile away, shutting down access to the entire LB port and stopping traffic on the 710 freeway for several hours before police attacked with overwhelming force, leading to more arrests. Truck drivers honked in solidarity and other workers in the yards stopped to watch the protest unfold, shouting in solidarity with the general pro-worker and anti-capitalist message of the protesters.

Seattle: Two terminals shut down, police get violent -
Protesters mobilized by Occupy Seattle for the West Coast Port Shutdown gathered at 1 p.m. in Westlake to march to the port, some three miles away. The Port of Seattle is the second busiest port on the West Coast. The route chosen took the spirited marchers past Seahawks stadium, where football fans were already beginning to congregate for a game scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. The number of people marching kept increasing; as marchers approached Terminal 18 under the West Seattle bridge, this reporter estimated the crowd at around 1,000 strong.
As the march got closer to the port, we began to see trucks heading towards and away from the terminal. Marchers handed out a pro-union statement to the drivers. Many truckers honked their horns in solidarity.
Terminal 18, the largest and busiest terminal was shut down first. Protesters picketed and created a barricade forcing traffic into one lane. This blocked three gates, while the fourth had already been shut down by the port. Police initially prevented outgoing truck drivers from leaving the port, while protesters demanded that the workers be allowed to leave.
At 5 p.m., reports came through that the union arbitrator had ruled that the picketline was too dangerous to cross and sent the ILWU workers home with pay.
Protesters then moved to Terminal 5, the location of the only other ship at port that day. Approximately 100 protesters formed a human barricade and moving picket line at the terminal gate, while another hundred stood by in support.
Some protesters who remained at Terminal 18 were herded onto the sidewalk. When they tried to maintain the blockade, the police used pepper spray and flash grenades to disperse them. Protesters were also trampled by police horses used as crowd control weapons. Several people were arrested, including two medics who had been treating victims of pepper spray.
Eventually the protesters remaining at Terminal 18 moved to Terminal 5. After two hours of picketing, the union arbitrator once again ruled, calling off work at the terminal.

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