SEATTLE — Police used “flash bang” percussion grenades to disperse protesters who blocked an entrance to a Port of Seattle facility this evening as part of a national effort to disrupt West Coast port traffic.
Occupy Seattle protesters had started setting up wooden crates and aluminum in front of the entrance to Terminal 5 when police moved in to clear the area. Earlier, police reported “multiple” arrests at nearby Terminal 18 after about 100 occupy protesters stopped traffic for about 20 minutes.
After the grenades went off, the protesters scattered, with many wiping their faces and retreating from the area.
The Seattle group had marched several miles from a downtown shopping area. The activity snarled nearby traffic during the Monday evening commute and caused several bus routes to be rerouted or delayed.
Earlier today, longshoremen at the Longview port went home for the day, essentially shutting down the terminal after an Occupy Wall Street demonstration. Several dozen protesters in Bellingham blocked railroad tracks.
The International Longshore & Warehouse Union sent home its Longview workers out of concern for their health and safety, spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said.
“Our people are willing and able to go to work,” Sargent said.
However, both the port and the union decided to shut down operations, said Port of Longview spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg. She said about 20 jobs would be affected. The port was handling one ship today.
Union workers would be paid for four hours of work, the union said.
The Longview rally lasted about 90 minutes and numbered about 100 people. It was among a series of coordinated Occupy Wall Street protests at the West Coast’s busiest ports. Demonstrators hoped the rallies would cut into the profits of the corporations that run the docks.
The protests also hit terminals at ports in Oakland, Calif., and Portland, though it wasn’t immediately clear how much the shutdowns would affect operations and what the economic loss would be.
Union leadership in Washington has said they are sympathetic to the demands of the Occupy Wall Street movement but don’t support today’s actions.
In Longview, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and the port have been engaged in a protracted labor dispute, and the union president said the Occupy movement was co-opting their fight.
“As the Occupy movement, which began in September 2011, sweeps this country, there is a real danger that forces outside of the ILWU will attempt to adopt our struggle as their own,” ILWU president Robert McEllrath said in a statement posted on the union’s website Saturday.
Sargent said that if union workers participated in the Occupy protest, they did so as individuals, not as part of the union.