Monday, Dec 12, 2011, 4:18 pm
‘Small Victories’ at West Coast Port Blockades
A march of about 1,000 Occupy Oaklanders descended upon the Port of Oakland in the early morning today, dispersing across several pre-organized "zones" in order to block as many berths at the Port as possible.
Around 10 a.m., the union arbitrator declared the port unsafe for work. Shortly after a march of most of the protesters left the port, victorious, some berths reopened and longshoremen were reportedly seen loading and unloading containers from ships. Some of the small number of remaining protesters at the picket line attempted to halt the work; two were arrested.
The Port characterized the actions not as a shutdown but as "disruptions" and "delays." As of 1 p.m., Port spokespeople said traffic was flowing in and out of the Port as normal.
While the Oakland Educators Association and other local unions endorsed the strike, the numbers were much smaller than on November 2 for the General Strike which shut down the Port of Oakland in one fell swoop, when upwards of 10,000 people stream across an overpass and down in front of the port's berths.
"The bulk of the support of the people involved were kind of the activists from the area," John Reimann of the International Workers of the World union told me. But, he said, those activists "have the more passive support of more workers."
What remains to be seen is how active that support might turn out to be later tonight.
This morning's shutdown in Oakland was far more peaceful and arguably more successful than the port actions further down the coast. In Los Angeles, Occupy LA and Occupy San Diego descended on the massive ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Police from four departments outfitted in riot gear often outnumbered protesters. Two arrests were made after protesters blocked port access for a couple hours.
It's still unclear how the situation will develop this evening. Los Angeles does not have plans to march again on their port, but Oakland is just gearing up. Right now occupiers are rallying in Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant plaza leading up to marches that will converge again upon the port to shut down the night shift.
Last week, the refrain about today was, "We'll see on Monday." Now I'm hearing a lot of, "We'll see tonight."
For their part, Occupy Oakland is asking for people to bring their sleeping bags.
Susie Cagle is a graphic journalist in Oakland, Calif. She has drawn for The American Prospect, Truthout, and others. She has also written for outlets including the Atlantic, Alternet, GOOD magazine, Citizen Radio and Truthout. Her website is thisiswhatconcernsme.com.