OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Many Occupy Oakland protesters Wednesday evening returned to Frank Ogawa Plaza after demonstrating at the Port of Oakland, forcing the Port to shut down operations.
Port officials said Wednesday night’s protest was peaceful and no injuries or property damage were reported.
Port Executive Director Omar Benjamin said maritime operations will only resume “when it is safe and secure to do so.”
Ben Bruso, 23, a direct service provider for developmentally disabled individuals, was one of hundreds who blocked the Port’s Gate One, where the demonstration has a party-like feel, complete with a brass band.
Bruso said he was there because he wants to get rid of lobbying in government.
“Our government is being bought by corporations,” said Bruso, a Service Employees International Union member, who came to the march of his own accord.
“The middle class and lower class are being subjugated,” he said.
On the closure of the Port, Bruso said, “Obviously it sends a message to the corporate world that we’re not going to sit by and take it anymore.”
Colin Holtzinger, 24, a mental health counselor, said he was at the Port because he believes “we need to tax the rich and get rid of the barriers of entry to small businesses.”
Holtzinger also said, “I feel great. This is the largest movement I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
A group of several hundred demonstrators gathered to block entrances to the Port at Maritime and Seventh streets.
KCBS Team Coverage Of Occupy Oakland General Strike:
“I support the Occupy movement and the 99 percent. The priorities of this country need to be re-examined and re-ordered,” said Marti Mogensen, 63, a teacher at Berkeley High School.
Mogensen was formerly a teacher in the small town of Onalaska, Wis., the town where Scott Olsen, is from—Olsen is a former marine who was injured in last week’s demonstration.
“I think his case is interesting because it’s done a lot to move Occupy Oakland into international attention. I really think it’s tragic,” she said.
She said some of the teachers at Berkeley High School did “teach-ins” Wednesday to support the general strike.
On closing the Port, Mogrensen said, “I think it really shows that people want change and they want to organize and these tactics do work.”
Jessica Hendricks, 27, a chair of the Berkeley chapter of the ACLU, said, “I’m here exercising my freedom of speech and making sure the rest can do so peacefully.”
On closing the Port she said, “I think it shows the strength and power of the people.”
The group at Maritime and Seventh streets had blocked trucks from entering and exiting the Port all night and the numbers appear to be growing.
Trucks that tried to exit with cargo were forced to turn around. However, drivers who attempted to leave without cargo are allowed to pass.
One big-rig driver who was trapped by the crowd Wednesday night said, “I just wanna go home. Why are they on top of my truck?”
Though there have been rumors of police action, there was minimal police presence by the Port’s gates as of 7:30 p.m.
Oakland emergency officials responded to a report of a vehicle that struck a pedestrian Wednesday near 11th Street and Broadway, where protesters continue to march.
Further information regarding extent of injuries and what caused the crash was not immediately available.
Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan said that he believes a small group of anarchists is responsible for vandalism that struck five businesses in Oakland Wednesday.
The vandalism occurred at a Whole Foods store and several banks, he said.
Jordan said the police believe about 4,500 people participated in the general strike Wednesday. He said most protesters were peaceful but that about 60 to 70 anarchists, who he said “were bent on creating problems,” caused the vandalism.
He said the anarchists dressed distinctively and wore all-black clothing and handkerchiefs.
Jordan said police believe they know who those responsible are, but no one has been arrested so far.
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