Occupy the Ports protest blocks trucks, curbs business throughout West Coast
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Heady with their successful attempts to block trucks and curb business at busy ports up and down the West Coast, some Occupy Wall Street protesters plan to continue their blockades and keep staging similar protests.
Thousands of demonstrators forced shipping terminals in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Longview, Wash., to halt parts of their operations Monday and some intend to keep their blockade attempts ramped up overnight.
At least one outside observer who has followed political movements for decades said the port blockades were an indicator of the disruptive activities likely to continue for months and right until next year's presidential elections.
The movement, which sprang up this fall against what it sees as corporate greed and economic inequality, focused on the ports as the "economic engines for the elite." It comes weeks after police raids cleared out most of their tent camps.
Protesters are most upset by two West Coast companies: port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT. Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc. owns a major stake in SSA Marine and has been a frequent target of protesters.
Demonstrators say they are standing up for workers against the port companies, which have had recent high-profile clashes with union workers. 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.
In Oakland, some 1,000 protesters said they were determined to remain at the port overnight.
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.
"Mission accomplished," said protest organizer Boots Riley.
Mike King, another Occupy Oakland organizer, said demonstrators had voted to remain at the port until at least 3 a.m. Tuesday to block any sudden shifts of longshoremen to offload the three ships that were neglected Monday.
"We had made a promise to the rest of the occupiers that if there was violence we would extend the blockade," said King. "So in the spirit of solidarity, we're going to continue until tomorrow."
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan pleaded with the occupiers to go home and allow the longshoremen and truckers get on with their livelihoods.
"People have to think about the consequences," she said. "People have to think about who they are hurting. They are saying, 'We want to get the attention of the ruling class.' Well, I think the ruling class is probably laughing, and people in this city will be crying this Christmas. It's really got to stop."
Police in Seattle used "flash-bang" percussion grenades to disperse protesters who blocked an entrance to a Port of Seattle and 11 demonstrators were arrested.
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