Protest escalates with Oakland port shutdown
After several hours, organizers call for return downtown
OAKLAND, Calif. – Occupy Wall Street protesters declared victory after thousands of demonstrators shut down evening operations at one of the nation’s busiest shipping ports late Wednesday, escalating a movement whose tactics had largely been limited to marches, rallies and tent encampments since it began in September.
As a voice over a bullhorn said “The night is not over yet,” protest organizers told demonstrators to head back to the downtown plaza where the Oakland movement has been based for more than a month. The Occupy encampment across the street from City Hall also was the scene of intense clashes with authorities last week.
The nearly five-hour protest at the Port of Oakland, the nation’s fifth-busiest shipping port, was intended to highlight a daylong “general strike” in the city, which prompted solidarity rallies in New York, Los Angeles and other cities across the nation.
The demonstrations in Oakland were largely peaceful and police say there were no arrests.
Police estimated that a crowd of about 3,000 had gathered at the port at the height of the demonstration around dusk. Some had marched from the city’s downtown, while others had been bused to the port.
The crowd disrupted operations by overwhelming the area with people and blocking exits with chain-link fencing and illegally parked vehicles. The demonstrators also erected fences to block main streets to the port. No trucks were allowed into or out of the area.
Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said evening operations had been “effectively shut down.”
Hours later the crowd began to dwindle and a voice on a bullhorn declared a victory for the movement, saying, “The port has been shut down. Let’s head back to the plaza.”
The Oakland protests became a rallying point for the far-flung movement last week when an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police.
Oakland organizers said they targeted the port because they want to stop the “flow of capital.” The port sends goods primarily to Asia, including wine as well as rice, fruits and nuts, and handles imported electronics, apparel and manufacturing equipment, mostly from Asia, as well as cars and parts from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai.
Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said its members were not being called to strike but that they supported the protesters.
The members “are supporting the concerns raised by Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement to speak up for the 99 percent and against the corporate greed that is wrecking America,” Merrilees said.