Occupy protesters across the West Coast began blocking major ports on Monday in protest of “exploitation by capitalism,” as one protestor put it. Beginning at about 8 a.m. Eastern time, the protests are attempts to shut down ports in numerous cities from Anchorage to San Diego.
The specter of violence appeared within an hour of the beginning of the demonstrations. Police in Portland, Ore., confiscated weapons, including a firearm with extra ammunition magazines, from two men who claimed to be headed to the protests, as the Associated Press reports:
Officers making a traffic stop found the gun with extra ammunition clips and the sword plus walkie-talkies in a car with two men who said they were an advance team for the demonstration, Lt. Robert King said. A 26-year-old man was driving with a suspended license and the 27-year-old passenger was wanted for a parole violation, King said.
As this post was published, police in numerous cities – including Oakland, Portland, and Los Angeles – were on-scene attempting to disperse or contain the protests. Scribe will have updates for our readers as the protests progress.
Small businessmen and other observers fumed at the impending action, noting it would be a destructive economic force at a time when they can least afford it (emphasis added).
“It’s going to have a snowball negative effect. I depend on the port to feed my family. Why should I have to be put in a predicament because these people lack the skills to get a job?” said Vladimir Torres, an independent trucker who is based out of Long Beach, CA, and comes to the port of Oakland on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Torres is an owner-operator who said he would be dually affected because he works at two West Coast ports.
Josh Thomas, a spokesman for the Port of Portland, told the Columbian that 88% of the exporters who call the port home are small and medium-size businesses. “We see this as hurting working people,” Thomas said of the Occupy movement’s port initiative.
Even Occupy sympathizers spoke out against the day of anti-capitalism demonstrations, noting that the actions could exacerbate existing employment problems at some of the ports:
The Alameda County Building and Construction Trades Council’s secretary-treasurer, Andreas Cluver, said many of his union’s workers were recently hired at port building projects after long stretches on unemployment. Given that, a port shutdown aimed at punishing the 1 percent “makes no sense,” he said.
He said no union at the port supports the shutdown.
“We’re extremely supportive of the message of Occupy Oakland, and we did come out to support the Nov. 2 general strike, but we’re not behind this one,” Cluver said. “When working people aren’t involved in the decision on whether to shut down their jobs at the port, that’s problematic. And we weren’t consulted. Losing a day of wages is hard.”
He added: “The port is a public entity. It’s really not the 1 percent. Go shut down a country club – that’s the 1 percent.”
The president of the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union accused the protesters of “attempting to co-opt our struggle in order to advance a broader agenda” in a message to union members last week.
That agenda has been documented here at Scribe, where we have noted the extensive backgrounds of some of the protests’ organizers in professional agitation and protest politics. The port demonstrations fit perfectly with that M.O.