From the new January-February 2012 issue of News & Letters:
Oakland, Calif.–Following a shutdown of the Oakland Port on Nov. 2, whose success took the port and city authorities by surprise, Occupy Oakland called another shutdown for Dec. 12.
This time, Occupy Oakland linked the shutdown to demands for which port workers have been fighting: in support of the Los Angeles non-unionized truck drivers who were fired for wearing union T-shirts and the Longview, Washington, longshoremen in their struggle against EGT. EGT has built its own terminal, and insists on hiring only non-union longshoremen, attempting to break ILWU.
The call for a port shutdown in solidarity with port workers was answered so widely that it became a West Coast shutdown. On Dec. 12 in Oakland, at least 1,000 people came out at 5:30 AM to picket the entrance to the port, preventing the workers and truck drivers from entering for the day shift. Thousands more came in the afternoon, shutting down the evening shift. People stayed most of the night, continuing the shutdown. Seattle, Portland and Long Beach all participated in the West Coast port shutdown, which stretched from Anchorage to San Diego.
We heard rumors that Houston port protesters had a tent dropped on them and gas fired into the tent before they were arrested. New York City and Denver held protests in solidarity with port workers.
The port and the government did all they could to prevent the shutdown. The media interviewed truckers who complained that even a one-day shutdown cut into their wages. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan decried the hit the city’s empty coffers would take from a one-day break in port traffic, and California Governor Jerry Brown wanted to use the police to keep the port open.
Governments’ coordinated attacks on many Occupy Movements’ encampments meant that the movement has grown in other ways. It includes expressing solidarity with workers. Occupy Oakland actively supported striking American Licorice factory workers in Union City. All 178 employees walked out on Dec. 5 over unfair take-aways in medical benefits. On Jan. 9 about 100 Occupy Oakland protesters picketed the factory between 5:00 and 6:00 AM, forcing management and security to sneak in through the back door. One strike supporter said, “We see any situation in our area where people are being scared by the 1%, and if we have time for it, we’re going to help.” A worker at the factory said, “We’re happy. We want more Occupy people to come.”
Another form solidarity takes is defending those whose houses have been stolen by banks through foreclosures. Victims of police violence are offered trauma support services. Occupy Oakland’s feminist/Queer bloc is organizing to occupy/decolonize a building and establish a collective space in Oakland. (To get up-to-date information see occupyoakland.org)
Occupy protesters on Nov. 2. on their way to shut down the port of Oakland.
And while solidarity with prisoners has been a theme all along, Occupy Oakland General Assembly voted on Jan. 9 to participate in a National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners by co-sponsoring a demonstration in front of San Quentin on Feb. 20 (see http://occupyoakland.org/2012/01/7-at-18-ga-national-occupy-day-in-support-of-prisoners/).