Revolution #254, December 25, 2011
West Coast Occupy Port Shutdowns
December 12—Coordinated actions by West Coast Occupy movements disrupted, and in some cases shut down, ports up and down the West Coast. These actions by thousands and thousands were a significant continuation of resistance to the heartless and oppressive domination and way of life in this society. The actions also represented a powerful response by the Occupy movement to a coordinated nationwide effort by authorities to attack and crush the movement with police raids and brutality, and to coerce the movement into channels considered acceptable by the system.
A statement from Occupy Oakland calling the actions a success said: "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 coordinated shutdown, with support by Longshore workers, Teamsters, and independent truckers, demonstrates the continuing vitality and widespread appeal of the Occupy Movement."
In many cases, the overwhelmingly nonviolent civil disobedience actions on December 12 were again attacked by police, while mainstream media railed against Occupy for supposedly "hurting the 99%" by preventing some workers from working! This claim is particularly ridiculous and shameful in light of the massive unemployment, budget slashes, foreclosures, and immiseration enforced on people by the workings of this system.
Almost every official media report made the point that the protests were not called for by the dockworkers' unions. But in every situation and despite lack of official approval, there were dockworkers and others who showed support for Occupy. Many workers refused to cross picket lines and demonstrated support for the protests in many ways, from joining in, to honking in support, to issuing statements to the press.
In Oakland, 5,000 Occupy protesters and supporters successfully shut down the fifth largest container port in the U.S. When the shutdown was announced, occupiers danced and celebrated and chanted, "Occupy will never die. Evict us, we multiply!"
In Seattle, business at major port terminals was at least disrupted and partially shut down by protests and pickets. The protests in Seattle were brutally attacked by police with flash-bang grenades, beatings, and arrests.
According to Los Angeles Indymedia, 500 people shut down Terminal J of the Port of Long Beach, south of L.A., for several hours. Terminal J is the home of terminal operator SSA Marine. The police attacked the occupiers with batons, percussion weapons, Tasers, and dogs.
The following are a report from the Bay Area Revolution Writers Group on the Oakland port shutdown, and a correspondence from a reader on the Seattle action.
The action began at 5:00 am in order to stop the shift starting at 7:00 am. More than 1,000 set up picket lines at the gates of a number of shipping companies. Some of the protesters set up a tent in the middle of the street. Picket signs said, "Shut Down Wall Street on the Waterfront." No trucks or workers were allowed to enter the docks. Riot police gathered and formed a line inside the gates. By 9:00 am, two hours after the shift was supposed to start, the ports were declared closed by a union arbitrator.
That afternoon, a second wave of protesters marched from Oscar Grant Plaza (officially known as Frank Ogawa Plaza) in front of Oakland City Hall, where an Occupy camp had twice been evicted and where protesters had faced off against police firing tear gas and projectiles a few weeks ago. Several thousand protesters marched from the plaza to the port and were joined by hundreds more who marched from a rapid transit station.
In the front of the march was Scott Olsen, along with members of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace. Olsen, an Iraq War veteran, was critically injured in late October when police fired a projectile at him at extremely close range during the eviction of Occupy Oakland. Olsen, who wore a neck brace, was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle saying that he was at the port protest "to help keep spreading the truth and standing up for what's right."
As the march neared the port and organizers announced that the port had been ordered closed and workers were told to stay home, people celebrated, climbed on trucks, blasted music, and danced in the street.
Protesters held a General Assembly at the Hanjin terminal at the port and decided to continue their blockade into a second day by picketing during the 3:00 am shifts as a response to violence against blockades in other cities. The 3:00 am action also succeeded in shutting down the port.
More than 1,000 copies of Bob Avakian's "A Reflection on the 'Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning... And the Need To Go Further" were distributed at the demonstrations along with Revolution newspaper and copies of the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.
A statement from Occupy Oakland exposes a campaign by Oakland City Council members De La Fuente and Schaaf, who 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."
Occupy Oakland organizer Barucha Peller said, "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."
The Occupy Oakland statement says, "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."
This was a powerful day for the people. Hundreds started the march and others joined in on the route, swelling our numbers to at least 1,000. It was a fairly diverse crowd, young and old, and all nationalities. Some onlookers appeared curious or apprehensive. But many, including sports fans, motorists, and truckers waved or honked. The main target at the Port of Seattle, having the bulk of the shipping this day, was Pier 18. On our arrival, the Pier 18 entrance was surrounded and shut down. People also took the main road fronting the Pier 18 entrance, and here the police attacked and made arrests on the road, using the procedure of first throwing people to the ground and on their faces and kneeling on top of them while binding their arms behind their backs. The frontage road was thus cleared, but the pier itself was shut down!
A call then came for 200 people to go to Pier 5, as it was the key to shut down the night shift. This was successfully done, but reduced forces at Pier 18 enough that the police were able to launch an attack on Pier 18 with horses, stun grenades, and tear gas, making many more arrests. These people were treated unjustly. A clergyman has written, "An officer pulled me down from behind and threw me to the asphalt ... he pressed a knee to my spine and immobilized my arms behind my back, crushing me against the ground. With the right side of my face pressed to the street, he repeatedly punched the left side of my face."
Copies of Revolution were gotten into people's hands and there was much discussion about Occupy being the start of something that can go much further, about revolution vs. reform, and what the word "revolution" really means.
After the port shutdown and further exposure of their brutality, the Seattle police held a press conference to claim they had been viciously assaulted by protesters throwing bricks, paint, and rebar and compared the protests to those that shut down the World Trade Organization in 1999. Police representatives released video claiming to document this, most of which seems to show the brutality of the police themselves on nonviolent protesters, and called for people to snitch to turn in Occupy protesters. This is taking place right after release of a Justice Department investigation that documents at least in part a pattern of SPD brutality against ordinary people, especially oppressed nationalities.
Occupy Seattle responded to the attempts by police to justify and increase their brutality against occupiers in a statement. It noted the pattern of brutality by SPD and said of the SPD actions, in part, "This is a bold-faced attempt to chill free speech and has the potential of opening up those persons to discrimination for their constitutionally protected political views. The violence that took place at the port demonstration was not at the urging of OS and our members, but instead was left to the Seattle Police Department, which used flash-bang grenades and brutally beat dozens of citizens, including a member of the clergy.... Occupy Seattle condemns and denounces this specious move to discredit this movement."
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