After a port closure early Monday morning, protesters convened at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland this afternoon to hear speeches and rally together for a second march to the Port of Oakland, as part of a coordinated West Coast Port Shutdown effort on behalf of the Occupy movement.
According to KCBS News, the ripple effect of a port shutdown at the Port of Oakland would cost the port $8.5 million daily.
Many celebrities of the movement spoke to the crowd, including Angela Davis, rapper/activist Boots Riley, and Scott Olsen, a two-time Iraq War veteran, who suffered severe head trauma during a previous Occupy Oakland protest. Olson, who was wearing a neck brace for support, told us, “I’m excited to march with everybody. I’ve already seen what I want to see, and I hope it continues.”
Many other veterans were present as well, holding signs that read “Veterans for Peace.” Josh Shepherd was one of them. He served in the Navy from 2002 to 2008 and spent two years in Japan. He said the defense contracting he witnessed while overseas made him want to participate in the Occupy movement. “It’s time people got off of their couches… Defense CEOs make way more than Wall Street executives,” he said.
Protesters shut down terminals at the Port of Oakland early Monday morning, and more protests were expected throughout the evening. Among the demonstrators was Charles Smith, who was busy selling buttons for $1 each that read, “General Strike Now.”
“I got up at 3:30 a.m. in Richmond, and took BART to downtown Oakland. I was nervous about the weather and whether people would show up, but I could hear the chanting and the drumming when I got off the train and I knew it would be a success, tonight will too,” he said.
Smith was a member of Local 444, the East Bay MUD waste water treatment union, for 26 years and a member of the Teamsters union for 15 years. He said he is tired of the way unions take action. “They say make phone calls to Nancy Pelosi, or hang fliers on doorknobs… that’s what they call fighting. We have to stop the work, stop producing, and [corporations] have to start losing profits,” said Smith.
The plaza was filled with union members, as well as people joining in solidarity with the ILWU longshoremen in Longview, CA who are in the midst of a struggle for their rights as union members.
Both the Teamsters and the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) officially do not support the shutdown of the ports along the West Coast. Doug Bloch, spokesperson for the Teamsters, told Turnstyle last week that the union does not support the shutdown because it will cost the non-union truck drivers (who work at the ports as independent contractors) to lose their daily wages.
The ILWU cannot contractually support the shutdown either, or encourage their members to skip work. According to the The Daily News Online, “Under the terms of the ILWU contract, West Coast longshoremen cannot simply walk off the job en masse to support the shutdown, though individual union members can choose to exercise their First Amendment rights and not show up at the hiring hall that day.”
Teamster member Rich Fierro said it was not a hard decision to come out and support the shutdown. “I’ve been a teamster for 27 years, I’m a truck driver. It’s fantastic the solidarity out here. I hope to see that none of the ships are unloaded and the longshoremen honor the picket line,” he said.
Members of Code Pink, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice organization, were taking up collections of money at the gathering to pay the port workers who had chosen to participate in the strike and take a cut in pay.
Robyn Gee and Denise Tejada contributed to this report. All photos by Denise Tejada / Turnstyle News.