Occupy protests close US ports
US “occupy” protesters claimed victory Monday in blockading ports along the West Coast and shutting down a major trade cargo hub in a new front on the anti-capitalist campaign.
At least one port was fully closed down, while freight traffic was disrupted at several others including in Oakland, where thousands of demonstrators rallied after a day of action from California to Alaska.
Seventy-five percent of longshoresmen - 150 out of 200 - were sent home due to companies shutting docks due to safety concerns in Oakland, said a International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesman.
“We've been mistreated by the government for too long,” said lifetime Oakland resident Paula Brown, who was on her way home when demonstrators gave her a sign and convinced her to come to the port.
“I agree with what the Occupy movement is doing,” she added at the massive port near San Francisco where cargo operations were shut down overnight at one point last month.
The Port of Oakland said in an end-of-day update that there had been disruptions and delays at “several” of the Port's seven terminals during the day, and a few chose to close early to avoid further disruption.
“No terminal activity (is) scheduled for tonight,” it said, while insisting that this was typical for overnight, but adding that workers were not asked to come in for three vessels berthing in the evening “due to protest activity.”
Further north all operations were shut down at Portland, Oregon, authorities there said as darkness fell.
“The terminal gates are closed with no truck traffic. An estimated 325 local longshore labor jobs were impacted today,” it said, adding that police “continue to be on hand to assist Port security officers with crowd control.”
In Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, two people were arrested after protesters marched on the port terminal of SSA Marine, a company 51 percent owned by Goldman Sachs, a key target of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
But by the afternoon the Port of Long Beach said there had been “minimal impact to port operations” during the rain-soaked demonstration by several hundred protesters at one of the world's largest shipping ports.
“Most freeways, bridges and port access routes remained open, and all shipping terminals were operational during the protest,” a port statement said.
In Seattle, Washington state, port authorities said at the end of the day: “There was minimal impact to cargo movement today,” but added that police “will continue to monitor and address the situation.”
The protests were most high-profile in Oakland, where authorities wrote an open letter to protesters urging them not to shut down a port which handles some $39 billion in imports and exports per year.
“The port is connected to over 73,000 jobs in the region and more than 800,000 across the country. These are not just numbers. These are good jobs held by real working people and working families,” it said.
Around mid-evening protest organisers in Oakland called on demonstrators to stay out until at least 3:00 am (13:00 SA time), when the next shift of workers was due to arrive.
In Portland, where everything was at a standstill, the port authority voiced hope the protest would end Monday night. “The Port plans to resume operations at the terminals tomorrow, following the conclusion of the protest,” it said.
The loosely organised, left-leaning Occupy Wall Street protesters insist they are exercising their freedom of speech in the run-up to November 2012 national elections. - Sapa-AFP