OAKLAND — In an attempt to shut down maritime operations, protesters from the Occupy Movement marched to the Port of Oakland during Wednesday’s general strike, effectively shutting down business for the evening while causing no reported damage.
The march began at Frank Ogawa Plaza in Downtown Oakland and lead the crowd — which peaked at a minimum of 3,000 people — into the port, where each gated entrance was subsequently blocked in order to keep workers from entering for the 7 p.m. work shift.
The port brings in $8.5 million in imports and exports daily, and includes the Oakland International Airport as well as maritime operations. According to its website, the port also supports “nearly 50,000 jobs in the region.”
Buses had already delivered several hundred protesters to the port before the march from 14th Street and Broadway began. At around 6 p.m., the early-arrivals greeted the marching strikers from atop tractor trailers parked near the beginning of Middle Harbor Road.
Truck driver with Knight Intermodal Andrez Quintanilla and other drivers sat in their trucks for much of the evening, unable to leave because protesters had barricaded most of the gates. Quintanilla said his company was paying him overtime while he waited out the strike.
“I’m fine with it,” he said. “I’m prepared to stay all night if that’s what happens.”
Although there were reports of police presence at various points along the port throughout the evening, no altercations with protesters took place.
Protesters at the intersection of Middle Harbor and Maritime Street blocked the gate so that workers from the International Longshore & Warehouse Union Local 10 could not enter for their 7 p.m. work shift.
Floyd Huen of the Block by Block organizing network was overseeing the blockade, and explained that the unions had not had enough time to put the general strike to a vote with only a week’s notice. For this reason, the unions considered Wednesday a “Day of Action”, rather than a strike.
“In their contracts, it says they can’t cross a picket line,” Huen said. “So when they show up for work and can’t get in, they’ll just have to go home.”
Huen said the union supported the picket line.
At a 9:30 p.m. press conference at the Oakland Fire Department Office of Emergency Services, Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin said that no injuries, property damage or major security concerns had been reported at the port, but that the maritime operations of the port had been effectively shut down.
“Maritime operations will not resume until it is safe and secure to do so,” Benjamin said. “We hope that the work day can resume tomorrow.”
Several incidents of vandalism and injuries reported throughout the day all took place in the Downtown area. Protesters vandalized five businesses, including Bank of America, Citibank and a Whole Foods Market.
Later on at about 7:46 p.m., an individual was struck by a car on 11th Street and Broadway, near the Frank Ogawa plaza.