“Occupy” Protestors Shut Down Port of Oakland

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November 3, 2011

OAKLAND, Calif.—The Occupy Oakland protesters’ call for a general strike Wednesday largely fizzled as organizers failed to rally significant support from unions, but protesters brought operations at the Port of Oakland to a halt.

Maritime operations at the port, one of the biggest container ports in the U.S., were “effectively shut down” on Wednesday by demonstrators, said port officials. They added they would resume work “when it is safe and secure to do so.”

Occupy Oakland, the West Coast’s most volatile branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement, said on its website that it was “asking all workers go on strike, call a vacation day or simply walk off the job.” Last week, demonstrators and police here clashed in violent skirmishes that caught international attention.

But relatively few workers headed the strike call Wednesday, raising questions about the breadth of the movement’s support.

Police estimated a crowd of about 3,000 had gathered at the Port of Oakland by about 5 p.m. local time, the Associated Press reported. Some had marched from the city’s downtown, while others had been bused to the port. Although Oakland Mayor Jean Quan gave permission to most city employees to observe the strike call if they wanted, spokeswoman Karen Boyd said few of the 4,000 workers did.

At Oakland Unified School District, about 360 teachers, or 18% of the 2,000 total, took the day off to observe the strike, said district spokesman Troy Flint. “We had to scramble to make sure substitutes were in every classroom, or redistributed students into other classrooms, but there were no disruptions,” he said.

About 40 Port of Oakland workers didn’t show up at the largest hiring hall for the 325 daily jobs, said Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s national headquarters in San Francisco. Port officials said they closed their administrative offices early as a precaution. Some marine terminals planned to close early as well.

Some protesters in the city broke windows of banks and businesses and spray-painted slogans on ATMs. Many stores near City Hall were shut. At the University of California headquarters, officials asked the approximately 1,300 employees to work from home in case of transit troubles.

Organized labor mostly participated in the strike call by showing moral support for the Occupy protesters, said Josie Camacho, executive secretary treasurer of the Alameda Labor Council, an umbrella group for local unions.

Union members handed out stickers supporting Occupy Oakland and planned a cook-out of hot dogs and hamburgers for the encampment in front of City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, labor officials said.

Occupy organizers and sympathizers, who included some union leaders ,said they considered Wednesday’s actions a success. “It’s a great day to get our message out about the Occupy Wall Street movement,” Ms. Camacho said. “There’s such a good energy—music, a lot of people gathering, people with their children. It’s exciting.”

Some protesters expressed disappointment. “Some of this stuff is silly,” said Audra Nemir, a 28-year-old freelance tutor, as about 2,000 protesters milled around in a festive atmosphere at City Hall early Wednesday. “A strike has more power than people camping out.”

(c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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