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Occupiers Vote To Block Port Of Oakland Through Tuesday Morning

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Protesters attempt to block an entrance to the Port of Oakland on December 12, 2011. (Kimberly White/Getty Images)

Protesters attempt to block an entrance to the Port of Oakland on December 12, 2011. (Kimberly White/Getty Images)

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OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Occupy protesters at Monday night’s general assembly meeting voted to extend a blockade at the Port of Oakland through the early morning on Tuesday.

In a news briefing Monday night, Mayor Jean Quan said this action was “economic violence” and not fair to port workers or the community.

“I want to thank everyone for being peaceful today…but after the unofficial vote of the general assembly to continue the economic punishment of the Port of Oakland, I just have to say this—while we have not had physical violence, the economic violence to this city is not fair.”

“The labor community has already said they do not support this and still a small group of people are going to hold this port, this city, this community hostage,” she said.

Police Chief Howard Jordan said no violence or arrests were reported Monday night and police are continuing to monitor the situation and will take action if needed.

Port officials said no truck or gate operations are planned for Monday night, which is typical for evening activity. However, no ILWU members were asked to work for the three vessels that are berthed at the port Monday night.

“Today’s disruptions have been costly to Port workers and their families in terms of lost wages and shifts, to Oakland and the region in terms of lost tax revenue, and to one of the most progressive Ports in the country in terms of draining already limited resources that should be focused on real solutions to the problems plaguing our economy,” port officials said in a statement.

Port spokesman Issac Kos-Read told CNN the protests, “disrupted workers trying to get to work and impaired the port’s ability to operate.”

On a normal night, several hundred people would be working the graveyard shift, Kos-Read said. Dayshifts involve several thousand, he said. He said the protests have cost workers their wages, cost the city and region some revenue and could cause shipping firms to divert vessels to other ports.

“What has this accomplished?” he asked. “This is disrupting the 99%”

The march began at Frank Ogawa Plaza around 4 p.m., while more demonstrators began to march from the West Oakland BART station around 5 p.m.

Officers cleared the roads Monday evening to make way for demonstrators who were holding signs, waving flags and chanting slogans like “The system has got to die, hella hella Occupy.”

The crowd appears to be blocking about a dozen trucks from entering and exiting the port.

The daylong protest began early Monday morning when hundreds of protesters marched to the port and blocked several entrances.

Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin said the protest caused “sporadic disruptions” and delays but that all terminals were open early Monday afternoon and traffic was flowing in and out of the port.

Jordan said the protest was mostly peaceful but that two people were arrested outside the port’s America Terminal at 1599 Maritime St. shortly before noon for failing to comply with a police order to stop blocking a driveway.

Jordan said seven people were blocking the driveway and five of them complied with police orders to move.

He said there haven’t been any reports of violence associated with the protest but that there was one report of vandalism.

At mid-morning, dozens of trucks were lined up outside at least two
of the port’s entrances as hundreds of protesters blocked drivers’ paths.

About 150 longshoremen at the Port of Oakland were sent home without pay Monday because of the protest at the port, according to a union spokesman.

Craig Merrilees of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said terminal operators at the port had asked for about 200 union members to come to work for them on Monday but only about 50 members were able to work without disruption.

Merrilees said the other 150 union members “ran into protesters and police officers” when they tried to report to work and felt that it wasn’t safe for them to enter marine terminals.

He said those workers stood by in a safe area for about an hour before the terminal operators decided to send them home because they agreed that it wouldn’t be safe for them to work at the port Monday.

“If workers feel any condition is unsafe they will stand down,” Merrilees said.

According to Merrilees, no longshoremen workers have been requested to work at the port Monday night.

He said he doesn’t know how many longshoremen workers terminal operators will request for shifts at the port Tuesday.

Many longshoremen work on a day-to-day basis and terminal operators often don’t request them until a few hours before a shift begins, Merrilees said.

KCBS’ Holly Quan Reports:

Port and city officials and International Longshore and Warehouse Union leaders have criticized the protests, saying that the action will hurt Port workers.

Joel Hume, a driver for C.R. England, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, was waiting in line at Berths 30-32 with a truckload of beef and pork Monday morning.

“Raising awareness about income inequality is good, but I don’t agree with their methods,” Hume said. “I want to see things changed as well, but they shouldn’t prevent people from doing their jobs. They’re taking food out of peoples’ mouths.”

Hume said he had been waiting to get into the port since Sunday night to drop off the food he is carrying.

“I’m trapped,” he said.

Protester Shake Anderson, who said he has been involved in the Occupy Oakland movement since the beginning, said the demonstrators’ strategy is to keep a large crowd at the port to make it difficult for police to make arrests.

“It’s all about numbers,” he said.

The action is part of a coordinated shutdown of West Coast ports, and has been endorsed by Occupy movements from Anchorage to San Diego, with each city planning a shut down of its own.

Occupy Oakland previously shut down the Port of Oakland overnight during a daylong “general strike” action on Nov. 2.

Charles Smith, 68, of Richmond was one of the porters who took to the streets Monday to show his support.

Smith, a Vietnam War veteran, who has been protesting since 3:30 a.m. is representing the United Public Workers for Action. Smith said he was active in Vietnam War protests and noted some key differences between demonstrations then and now.

“The people are a very unusual mix of people. You didn’t have that kind of mix then,” he said.

Citing lack of jobs and increasing debt from college tuitions, Smith said, “The thing that’s different is the young people have no future.”

Not everyone who turned out Monday was in favor of the protests. One man who stood at the corner of 14th street and Broadway held a sign that read “Occupy attacks working people.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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