Occupy Movement Shuts Down West Coast Ports

On Monday, December 12th, thousands of people took part in a coordinated shut down of ports along the West Coast, including the port of Oakland here in the Bay Area where protesters successfully shut down the port for three consecutive shifts starting at 5:30am when 1,500 people came out to disrupt the morning shift. I took part in the afternoon rally and march to the port.

Why the ports?

The actions were carried out in solidarity with longshoremen port workers and truck drivers, in support of their long-time struggle against unjust treatment by companies that have a strong influence on port operations, in particular EGT (Export Grain Terminal) and Goldman Sachs, which owns a large stake in major port operator SSA Marine. Both EGT and Goldman Sachs have been involved in an ongoing battle with the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) around its members’ right to organize. Read more here.

Angela Davis speaking at Oscar Grant Plaza before the march

Aside from showing support for port workers’ rights, the port shut downs were also intended as a means of economically disrupting the 1% by cutting into the economic profits of major corporations that depend heavily on port operations. The shut downs also symbolized a response to the nationally coordinated, brutal police repression that the Occupy Movement has faced in recent weeks. Around four thousand people took part in the afternoon march to the Oakland port on 12.12.11. Here’s a breakdown of what happened that afternoon and into the evening:


Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Oakland at Oscar Grant Plaza on 14th & Broadway, Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen who is on the long road to recovery from a serious head injury he sustained as a result of police violence in October spoke to the crowd followed by Angela Davis, an activist, scholar and retired professor from UC Santa Cruz. Watch the video of them speaking here.


The march leaves Oscar Grant Plaza for the port, led by Scott Olsen and Iraq Veterans Against the War.


An announcement is made that port operations for the evening shift have been shut down, people chant and cheer in celebration as the march continues into the port joined by another march of close to 2,000 people that left from West Oakland BART station.


A General Assembly was held to decide whether or not the blockade will be extended until the 3am shift. Occupy Oakland decided that they would extend the blockade if there were any instances of Occupy-related police repression or violence in other cities. Once news broke about San Diego and Long Beach where several protesters were arrested and in Seattle where police used pepper-spray and concussion grenades, the Occupy Oakland website posted  “Based on verified police repression at Occupy Seattle, Occupy Houston, Occupy Long Beach and Occupy San Diego, the port blockade in Oakland will continue. Next shift is at 3am and we need as much people as possible!” About 400 people stayed and successfully shut down the 3am shift.

Sign reading ‘Defend Truckers Right to Unionize’

While there are mixed views about the action on Monday between labor union leaders and activists on whether or not it was right to shut down the ports for a day, many rank and file workers have expressed that although they are disappointed to lose a portion of their wages, they recognize the occupiers’ genuine intention to raise awareness around port worker mistreatment and the union-busting practices of corporations like Goldman Sachs who are part of the 1%.  Port truck drivers published an open letter in response to the port occupations on Monday on the Coalition for Clean and Safe Ports website.

I think that the higher than expected turnout at the port shut down on Monday speaks to the continuing vibrancy of the Occupy movement and a potential shift towards coordinated, issue-specific actions that call attention to the many problems that are shared by the 99%.

It was inspiring for me to stand beside so many people coming from different experiences who are joining together under a common goal – changing the system to better the lives of the people who support it.

Being at the Oakland General Strike/Day of Action for most of the day, you would think that you would be completely exhausted, but surprisingly, when 4 o’ clock rolled around to begin the march to the Port of Oakland the energy was high.

A large group had just returned from the march on the banks where the crowd had shut down the Chase Bank, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America. Crowds of people had gathered in front of banks singing, dancing and forming chains to prevent people from coming in, thus successfully shutting down the banks for the day.

We had all returned to the corner of 14th and Broadway to cheers, chants, music and excitement as we embarked on the nearly 3 mile march to the Port of Oakland to shut it down.

We all looked around and saw the diversity of the crowd from students, babies in strollers, teachers, union members, and even an 88 year old man with a cane named EJ who had traveled from San Francisco to march in solidarity. Walking side by side with this whole group you started to feel really connected with the strangers around you who were there for a common cause — to show that people power is a strong force to make positive change.

As we kept marching, we turned a corner to cross the bridge toward the port and as we did, there was a collective gasp from everyone turning that corner as we saw the amount of people that were there. As we continued to walk up the slope of the bridge, we kept looking forward and looking back at the crowd that we were part of and it was breathtaking. Throngs and throngs of people kept streaming in with no end. It was hard to tell where it all began or ended. As we looked forward toward those famous Oakland cranes, the sun was setting and everyone was soaking in the feeling of the dawn of something new. There were embraces, smiles, excited chattering and chills running through peoples bodies as we really began to grasp the strength of our numbers.

“The change is finally here.” “We’ve made this happen.” “This is a beautiful thing, and I’m really happy to be sharing this with you.”

People were standing on top of rigs and scaffolding waving flags, cheering, singing and dancing. There were some truck drivers in their halted big rigs honking their horns in solidarity. There were drum circles, encouraging speeches being given and general joy throughout the crowd as the people shut down the Port of Oakland — the 5th largest port in the nation.

Darkness continued to set, and as 8PM approached, an announcement came through the crowd trying to mobilize more people to get to the end of the port to block the shift change. As the call came in, more people marched to the end of the port and successfully blocked the shift change and officially shut down the port that day. Success in mobilization.

As we returned to the Ogawa/Grant plaza, the energy was still high and people were reflecting on the events of the day. We all thought back on the crowds of people, the creativity of the movement and how well we all worked together to get our voices heard around the world in a peaceful manner.

Global Exchange had an amazing time connecting with our Oakland community and beyond to share in the common struggle for peace, social justice and economic equality. We are still trying to look through our loads of photos and videos and will be sharing them with you as we compile it all.

In the meantime, you can look back at all our blogs updates and read our twitter livestream as it happened.

Thank you #OccupyOakland and everyone who made this possible. A new beginning is near.

It’s a carnival with a purpose at Oscar Grant/Frank Ogawa Plaza in Oakland. The speeches from the stage are non stop. Voice after voice sharing messages of support from around the US, North America and the world, news of students, teachers and other workers deciding to walk out today and join the thousands. When there is a short break, there is music. There are so many people!

The Plaza itself is full of #occupy tents, there are info tents, tents for food, shelter and support. There is lots of singing and lots of beautiful art.

Folks from the Great Tortilla Conspiracy are screening amazing, celebratory prints and sharing with all.

Marches return to the main square and are greeted with roars, cheers and excitement. People come up to the stage and report back on where they went. Someone on the 1PM march on the banks reported that a living room was set up inside the downtown Oakland Chase branch to represent all those that have had their homes foreclosed. Bank of America was next – successfully closed down.

Poster by Great Tortilla Conspiracy

I just returned knowing that there is still a whole lot going on this afternoon. As I was handing out I AM 99% stickers, people talked about what a great day they were having and how important it was that everyone was together on the streets.

We’ll keep posting updates and photos, in the meantime, the Global Exchange twitter feed has been following everything happening.

We’ll be using our website, blog, twitter account and facebook as a hub of information and live updates, so check in throughout the day. The good folks at Movement Generation have a great list of events posted here.

On the way down from the Oscar Grant Plaza where several thousand strikers converged to block the corner of Broadway and 12th street, my colleague Tex remarked: “Isn’t it weird that we didn’t see a single cop during the whole march?” Not when a cab tried to breach the crowd blocking the intersection, not when we marched passed the City Hall and surged in front of the Wells Fargo and Chase banks, we never saw a single blue uniform and badge.

The crowd was full of labor folks: nurses, teachers, SEIU workers, carpenters and even iron workers representing their unions marching side by side with students, babies in strollers and retired folks who kept saying, “I never thought I’d see this day”. After the frightening night when the police attacked the Occupy Oakland encampment, with the severe injuries to an Iraq Vet Against the War, Scott —people were adamant that the streets belong to the people and that we will not let fear and intimidation diminish our hopes for a different kind of world.

As soon as Tex remarked that there was no police presence we saw a BART police officer and I went over and asked him how he thought it was going. “Oh, I’m not authorized to make a comment”, he said with a smile, “but we are here”.

In the sunny early part of the day there was a lot of optimism, as the chants and brass band belted out the rhythmic chants:

Rise Up
Shut it Down
Oakland is a People’s Town.

The system has got to die
Hella, hella occupy

We are the 99%
United in our dissent.

WATCH A video from the streets here.

We’ll be using our website, blog, twitter account and facebook as a hub of information and live updates, so check in throughout the day. The good folks at Movement Generation have a great list of events posted here.


Good morning Oakland! It’s a crisp and sunny day in the Bay Area. Reports from Oakland say that the intersection surrounding Oscar Grant/Frank H Ogawa Plaza is completely packed with 2000 people.

Angela Davis speaks to Oakland crowd

Angela Davis just spoke at the rally happening now – watch the livestream here. Her words open the day – she said that we DO NOT assent to economic exploitation, corporate inequality nor police violence. She then said we DO assent to community, education – free education, health care – free health care, housing, happiness, hope and future.

The Longshoremen have announced that they have shut down the Port of Oakland.

Flash mob just getting ready … Are you?

We’ll be using our website, blog, twitter account and facebook as a hub of information and live updates, so check in throughout the day. The good folks at Movement Generation have a great list of events posted here.

First, a video to get you in the spirit: “Mic Check, Tear Down That Wall

Next, wise words from the folks at www.occupywallst.org: “Reflection is easy when the water is still, but it seems hard to be definitive about something as fluid and rapidly moving as the Occupy movement.”

Occupy Seattle is so different from Occupy Wall Street which has very little in common with my local Occupy San Francisco which in turn bears little resemblance to Occupy Oakland located just three train stops across the San Francisco Bay. What was true two weeks ago may not be true four weeks from now.

Yet something has rooted itself into the collective conscience of this country in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time and may be a true turning point.

When mainstream TV can poke fun at the idea of corporate personhood and people know what that means and when the “Field Report” on NPR (11/29) claims that when Californians were asked whether they agree or disagree with the underlying reason for the occupation a 58% majority say they agree with it then the turning point seems evident. 99% of us seem to understand that greed and corruption are destroying the public good and we must do something before our democracy, our planet and our  future generations are destroyed.

I have been inspired and moved by the scope and breadth of the movement – it’s like a breath ignited the life of a newborn and she is now squalling her head off to be alive in this world…now.

I’ve also been uncomfortable in the setting, uncomfortable with the drugs and alcohol, with the messiness and confusion, tired when meetings last hours in the cold and when we use our precious time together to talk about dogs, food and hygiene rather than the larger problems at hand.

What is clear is that the space has built a sense of community that would be impossible without the ebb and flow of daily life. Living together, meeting each other in our best moments and our worst we have learned to care for each other. There is a profound acceptance of difference and empathy for individual needs that I have not seen in other movements. We are taking care of each other.

The guy who mumbles and shouts at his private demons is welcome at the meetings, is handed a broom when the sidewalk needs cleaning and helps to divide the food so that all can share. The intellectual is welcome to teach but has to keep his lectures to the point because the repetition of the human mic makes brevity the only possibility. Campers have the same voice as the folks who arrive for the General Assembly and then go home.  Hierarchies are discouraged, even a hierarchy of sacrifice and everyone is invited to participate.

Though the media first tried to ignore and then ridicule the occupations, first by wondering who the leaders were, or trying to anoint particular people with that role, then proclaiming that there was no platform, no goals or demands and now fairly successfully painting the occupations as messy, unsanitary, dangerous and out of control, the ideas that have been planted and groomed in the past few months have taken root across communities globally. It is a message about democracy.

As the weather gets colder and the coordinated efforts to clear the occupations in cities and universities across the nation sweep along, the movement becomes less about holding public space and more about holding community – about recognizing the common desires of the 99% for fairness.

A vision has emerged from the occupations. From Michael Moore’s summary of a vision statement that came out of an Occupy Wall Street meeting on Nov 22. We Envision:

  1.  a truly free, democratic, and just society;
  2. where we, the people, come together and solve our problems by consensus;
  3.  where people are encouraged to take personal and collective responsibility and participate in decision making;
  4. where we learn to live in harmony and embrace principles of toleration and respect for diversity and the differing views of others;
  5.  where we secure the civil and human rights of all from violation by tyrannical forces and unjust governments;
  6. where political and economic institutions work to benefit all, not just the privileged few;
  7. where we provide full and free education to everyone, not merely to get jobs but to grow and flourish as human beings;
  8.  where we value human needs over monetary gain, to ensure decent standards of living without which effective democracy is impossible;
  9. where we work together to protect the global environment to ensure that future generations will have safe and clean air, water and food supplies, and will be able to enjoy the beauty and bounty of nature that past generations have enjoyed.”

Kirsten at Occupy Oakland on November 2nd 2011

Building community in occupied spaces and practicing the revolutionary act of sharing in front of the financial institutions that have created the profound inequalities in our country is only the beginning. It is what has breathed life into the movement. Upon this beautiful consensus we will now build the apparatus of change in all the different ways we know how. Where it will actually lead and whether or not we can hold onto the idea that we are all in this together only time and effort will tell.

This weekend I saw a quote on a t-shirt in Spanish:

“Son tantos los agravios, y es tan largo el camino que, mas vale que continuemos andando preguntando caminamos.”

Roughly translated as “The problems are so great and the journey is so long that is it is much better to ask questions while we walk!