Video for this story was shot by videographer Tom Vee http://www.youtube.com/user/TomVeeTV
PROTESTER: We need to stay here and block this gate.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN: The Occupy Oakland movement has done it again.
CHANTING: We are the 99 percent.
DESVARIEUX: Hundrends of protestors blocked intersections in Oakland’s port on December 12th, successfully shutting down the port for a second time. So why the ports? Occupy Protestors say the purpose is to disrupt the profit machine of the 1 percent of wealthy Americans. They say while the rich keeps getting richer, the working conditions are getting worse and worse.
YVETTE FELARCA, TEACHER, OAKLAND, CA: We’re here to shut down the Port of Oakland, the fifth-largest port in the country, as part of the whole united day of action to shut down the West Coast ports, and solidarity to really fight for the right of the movement, continue to struggle to make sure that the criminal activities of the capitalists in this nation are checked and stopped, and to really build a movement that can fight for the redistribution of wealth, and make sure that we have a society that’s really fighting for human need, what people need and deserve, not [incompr.]
DESVARIEUX: Their plan was simple. On 12/12, Occupy movements would march to ports along the West Coast, closing hubs like Portland, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Diego. In Portland, Oregon, they were successful in shutting down the port. But other protests in Los Angeles and San Diego proved to be more difficult, with police blocking their way. The result of the protests meant trucks cannot bring in cargo. This one truck driver placed a white towel on his truck antenna–a sign of surrender.
TRUCK DRIVER: I’m out of here. [incompr.]
DESVARIEUX: But despite some signs of solidarity, some protesters ran into clashes with truck drivers who say the protest is preventing them from earning a living.
TRUCK DRIVER: –protest, yes. Mess with my truck, no. Don’t mess with my truck. Don’t mess with my load. That’s all.
TRUCK DRIVER: Don’t mess with me. Don’t mess with my living.
DESVARIEUX: But protesters say it’s in the interest of their livelihood that they are protesting. Many truck drivers in the area are classified as independent contractors and do not receive benefits. That’s one of the reasons for the daylong effort to shut down the ports on the West Coast. Also, Occupy protestors are standing in solidarity with International Longshore and Warehouse Union members. The union is in a labor dispute with grain exporter EGT. Despite the fact the union voted against supporting the blockade, individual members were allowed to participate in the rally. Journalist Mark Mason was at the scene of the Oakland port shutdown and says the reason the union cannot outrightly support Occupiers is because of deeper, systematic issues.
MARK MASON, JOURNALIST, OAKLAND, CA: In the 1950s, approximately 30 percent of the American workforce was unionized, roughly 30 percent. Today it’s around 11 percent. So we’ve seen a serious erosion of organized labor in the United States during the past 50 years. We’ve seen givebacks in the auto industry, the autoworkers, and other unions, large unions, with management appealing to some of the the union leadership in the larger unions, asking for giveaways and takebacks. And many have acceded to that, have agreed to that. But there seems to be a sharp division not only between the 1 percent and the 99 percent in terms of citizens in the United States, but there seems to be a 1 percent for the larger major labor unions in the United States and the 99 percent of the rank and file.
DESVARIEUX: Local government authorities have also tried to persuade Occupy protetsors not to block ports. In an open statement to the press, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said while she agrees with the concerns of the Occupy movement in general, she did not want to see the port closed.
JEAN QUAN, MAYOR OF OAKLAND: We urge demonstrators to continue to respect the rights of the 99 percent who are working out at the port and downtown and urge them to keep their protest peaceful.
UNIDENTIFIED: Protesters caused sporadic disruptions throughout the port area, which led to delays. But the port has remained operational throughout the morning.
DESVARIEUX: But Mason says it was a very different reality on the ground.
MASON: There were no trucks going in and out. What trucks we saw, they were parked by the side of the roadways entering and exiting the port. There was no activity that we could see. The port was effectively inactive. And the people I spoke with at the union, representatives down there, concurred with that, that the port was shut down. So it was very difficult to understand the language that was released there. It didn’t seem to be connected to the reality of the port that was only a few miles away from City Hall.
DESVARIEUX: Throughout the day, a certain level of peace was maintained at the West Coast ports, with only a couple instances of clashes with police, one near the Port of Seattle–police fired pepper spray into a crowd of demonstrators. Also, at least two people were arrested by Long Beach police when protestors attempted to shut down the Long Beach port. The occupiers consider 12/12 a success not only because they prevented ships from loading and unloading cargo, but they were able to engage people in debating such important issues.
PROTESTER: That’s why we are out here. We’re out here for the longshoremen’s struggle against EGT as well. Now, it’s up to you if you want to be in solidarity with the truck drivers that have no benefits. They can’t organize a union under the antitrust laws, and they’re misclassified as independent contractors because they can’t get any benefits as employees. That’s what Goldman Sachs and the 1 percent is doing to them. Right?
DESVARIEUX: For the Real News, this is Jessica Desvarieux.
End of Transcript
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.