Thursday, November 3, 2011

Protesters Occupy, Shut Down Oakland Port

Thousands of "Occupy Oakland" protesters marched into the Port of Oakland Wednesday night, effectively shutting down evening operations at the port.

The protest at the port was part of a day-long "general strike" called by the Occupy Oakland protesters in response to the police handling of protests last week that led to the serious injury by law enforcement officers of protester Scott Olsen.

The Occupy movement began in New York City almost two months ago, drawing thousands of angry protesters claiming that one percent of the population controls a disproportionate amount of the nation's wealth and power. The movement has since spread to nearly two-dozen United States cities and other cities abroad.

On Monday, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union offered their support to the Occupy Oakland protesters. However, ILWU members are not allowed to call a strike in support of actions such as the Occupy protests. ILWU officials said several dozen dockers did not show up for work at the port Wednesday, representing about 10 percent of the approximately 300-member strong workforce called for on Wednesday.

Protesters began arriving at the port in the early morning Wednesday and quickly overwhelmed gates and entrances throughout the port. The protesters, estimated by police to number about 3,000, stayed at the port for four to five hours before returning to Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland.

Port officials on Thursday morning reported that operations at the port were returning to normal, but the situation remained "fluid."

Despite the relatively short duration of the protests on Wednesday, the first Occupy efforts directed at the port, port officials warned that such shutdowns could have dire economic consequences.

"Continued disruptions will begin to lead to re-routing of cargo and permanent loss of jobs, a situation that would only exacerbate the on-going economic challenges of our region," the port said.