Protesters shut down US port
03 November 2011, 11:29
Oakland - Several thousand Occupy Wall Street demonstrators forced a halt to operations at the US's fifth busiest port on Wednesday evening, escalating a movement whose tactics had largely been limited to rallies and tent camps since it began in September.
Police estimated that a crowd of about 3 000 had gathered at the Port of Oakland by early evening. Some had marched from the California city's downtown, while others had been bussed to the port.
Port spokesperson Isaac Kos-Read said maritime operations had effectively been shut down. Interim police chief Howard Jordan warned that protesters who went inside the port's gates would be committing a federal offence.
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" downtown across from City Hall.
The announcement prompted a stream of demonstrators to also vacate the area, but many of the remaining protesters - several hundred stalwarts - stayed put, waiting for confirmation from port officials that overnight operations had also been halted.
Re-open the port
Kos-Read said at around 21:00 that a decision had not yet been made on any additional shut downs, but trucks that had been idling were leaving the area. Officials had said earlier that they planned to re-open the port as soon as it was safe to do so.
In New York, Los Angeles and other cities where the movement against economic inequality has spread, demonstrators planned rallies in solidarity with the Oakland protesters, who called for Wednesday's "general strike" after an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police last week.
Organisers of the march said 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.
The protesters spilled into the Oakland streets on Wednesday morning, and the participants, officials and business leaders were optimistic the strike would be peaceful. At a briefing, officials described the protests as orderly and said no arrests had been made.
Craig Merrilees, spokesperson for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said its members were not being called to strike but they supported the protesters.
The members "are supporting the concerns raised by Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement to speak up for the 99% and against the corporate greed that is wrecking America," Merrilees said.
In other cities, demonstrators targeted symbols of big business.
Nine protesters in Philadelphia were arrested as they held a sit-in at the headquarters of cable giant Comcast. About 100 military veterans marched in uniform in New York, angry at their dim job prospects. And parents and their kids, some in strollers, formed a "children's brigade" to join the Oakland rallies.
"There's absolutely something wrong with the system," said Jessica Medina, a single mother. "We need to change that."
In New York, the military veterans stopped in front of the New York Stock Exchange, standing in loose formation as police officers on scooters separated them from the entrance. On the other side was a lineup of police horses carrying officers with nightsticks.
"Wall Street corporations have played a big role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Jerry Bordeleau, a former army specialist who served in Iraq through 2009 and is now a college student. He said private contractors have reaped big profits in those countries.
In Boston, college students and union workers marched on Bank of America offices, the Harvard Club and the Statehouse to protest the US growing student debt crisis.