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Oakland City Council Avoids Vote On Port Closure In Raucous Meeting

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Occupy Oakland Protesters march in front of a line of police at a Port of Oakland entrance on December 12, 2011. (Kimberly White/Getty Images)

Occupy Oakland Protesters march in front of a line of police at a Port of Oakland entrance on December 12, 2011. (Kimberly White/Getty Images)

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – The Oakland City Council postponed a vote early Wednesday morning on a proposed resolution that would direct city leaders to use any legal means to stop future shutdowns at the Port of Oakland.

The topic was discussed at a City Council meeting that began Tuesday evening and lasted until after midnight as the council dealt with a raucous audience, dozens of whom spoke during the public comment period.

The resolution was proposed in response to disruptions at the port caused by an Occupy Oakland demonstration last week and a “general strike” on Nov. 2.

KCBS’ Chris Filippi Reports:

The resolution, by City Council members Ignacio De La Fuente and Libby Schaaf states that the port “is an important economic engine” that generates more than 73,000 jobs throughout the region and $462 million in annual tax revenues, and that the shutdown last week resulted in a loss of at least $4 million to the port.

Dozens of speakers remained lined up to address the council at Tuesday’s meeting, which began at 5:30 p.m., and were frequently antagonistic toward council members, heckling them and shouting over them. Council President Larry Reid at one point threatened to have police clear the chamber.

Protesters contended that the resolution would give police license to use excessive force against protesters.

”Oakland Police says that they have a crowd control policy, but they clearly have no interest in following it whatsoever,” said one protester. “It’s clear that police brutality is an institutionalized fixture of the Oakland Police Department.”

A few people, including Port of Oakland officials, spoke in support of the proposed resolution.

Councilwoman Libby Schaaf, who co-authored the resolution with Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, clarified that the resolution would not apply to strikes and other labor activity, but rather is specifically directed at outside protests.

She also said the resolution does not specifically mention Occupy Oakland, as “that would violate the First Amendment.”

The resolution states that the port “is an important economic engine” that generates more than 73,000 jobs throughout the region and $462 million in annual tax revenues, and that the shutdown last week resulted in a loss of at least $4 million to the port.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said earlier Tuesday that while she supports the resolution, if it is approved she’s not sure it will be enforceable and she doesn’t want to second-guess the tactics used by police Chief Howard Jordan in dealing with large demonstrations in the city.

“We have to deal with it demonstration by demonstration,” Quan told a small group of reporters at a briefing in her office.

Councilwoman Jane Brunner said at the meeting that the required police presence to prevent port shutdowns could cost an estimated $1.5 million, and questioned who would pay for such an action.

Brunner spoke in support of the general Occupy movement, and said she attended several of Occupy Oakland’s general assembly meetings and the Nov. 2 general strike, but said she did not support the more recent port shutdown.

Brunner drew jeers from protesters, who responded to her pledge of support with calls to “join us.”

“I have,” Brunner said, pointing out again that she had attended several meetings and actions.

“This is your movement and you should run it how you see fit,” Brunner told the audience, but implored protesters to recognize common ground with council members on some issues despite disagreements on others.

Even Councilwoman Nancy Nadel, who at one point proposed a resolution supporting Occupy Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza encampment, was not immune to heckling.

At one point, Nadel shouted at protesters in the audience as she implored them to find common ground with the City Council.

“Just listen for a minute,” Nadel said over shouts from the audience, shaking her head.

KCBS, CBS 5 and SF Chronicle Insider Phil Matier Comments:

Quan said, “I’m glad the City Council is speaking directly about the port. Last week I was the only politician saying ‘please don’t shut down the port.’”

Asked if the resolution is targeting her, Quan said, “I would hope not.”

She said, “I did everything I could to keep the port open last week. Most of the port was open most of the day.”

Quan said Jordan conferred with port officials about how to respond to the protest and his strategy was influenced by the fact that police officers were vastly outnumbered by a group of several thousand protesters.

The mayor said it’s difficult to keep the entire port open at all times during large demonstrations because “there are hundreds of acres of port property with multiple entrances.”

(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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