Occupy Protesters Target West Coast Ports

A disruption of international trade will send a loud message, they believe.

Posted: 12/12/2011 12:10 PM EST
Occupy Oakland

Just when some may have thought the Occupy movement was over, protesters on the West Coast are putting critics on notice that they haven’t gone anywhere.

 

On Monday, anti-Wall Street protesters joined in an effort to block some of the nation’s busiest ports from Anchorage, Alaska, to San Diego. In November, Occupy protestors successfully shut down the Port of Oakland, and on Monday a crowd of about 1500 succeeded again. Their idea: If you cut off the port, you will cut into corporate profits.

 

Occupy supporters targeted the locations because they believe American ports have become “economic engines for the elite.” Many Wall Street firms are the majority shareholders of ports, such as Goldman Sachs ownership in Stevedore Services of America (SSA), which provides services, equipment and labor at the Port of Portland's Terminal 2; the firm is currently in a labor-management struggle with 17,000 port truck drivers on strike who claim SSA is like a “sweatshop on wheels.”

 

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents thousands of longshoremen along the West Coast, says that they could not call for members to join the protests under their contract with the port. Additionally, in a letter, the union’s president suggested that protestors were attempting to co-opt the union’s cause to advance their own agenda. However, just last month Craig Merrilees, a spokesperson for the union, said its members were not being called to strike, but that they supported the protestors.

 

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.

 

Despite the disapproval of the union president, port-blockage protests have been deemed by the Occupy movement as “Wall Street on the Waterfront,” and have been described as the Occupy movement’s most dramatic act since many camps were disassembled last month by police raids.

 

Occupy groups have planned blockades in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington; Vancouver, British Columbia, and Portland, Oregon.

 

"We will not stand for corporate profits at the expense of working people, we will not stand for attacks on workers, and we will not allow our schools to be closed, social services slashed, and families to be impoverished by your greed!" Kari Koch, an organizer with Shut Down the Ports Working Group of Occupy Portland, said Monday in statement.

 

The Port of Oakland says that blocking the port could cost local jobs and hurt the port’s standing with customers.  

 

Officials at West Coast ports say they have been working with law enforcement to prepare for more possible disruptions.

 

 

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(Photo: Kimberly White/Getty Images)

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