Oakland officials estimate about 5,000 people took to the streets of the city yesterday in a general strike meant to spur sister rallies in New York, Los Angeles, and across the country.By all reports the majority of the day went peacefully with police giving protesters a wide berth. In the afternoon organisers split off about 3,000 people from the group to march on the Port of Oakland.
The nation’s fifth largest deepwater port was effectively ground to a halt as some people were bussed in and others walked to the waterfront.
Once protesters arrived they blocked exits with chain-link fences and vehicles. They then put up fences blocking main thoroughfares, totally disrupting operations.
Isaac Kos-Read, spokesman for the port told NPR that operations had been “effectively shut down” by early Wednesday evening.
Port officials then released a statement saying all port activity would be cancelled indefinitely, but their hopes were to be operating again on Thursday.
“Our hope is that the work day can resume tomorrow and that Port workers will be allowed to get to their jobs without incident,” the statement said. “Continued missed shifts represent economic hardship for maritime workers, truckers, and their families, as well as lost jobs and lost tax revenue for our region.”
Protesters targeted the port to stop the “flow of capital” and show that “the people are the economy, we make it or break it.”
The port of Oakland sends and receives the lion’s share of its more than 2 million containers a year, to and from Asia. It’s a large exporter of fruit, rice, nuts, and wine while importing electronics, clothing and manufacturing equipment, along with cars and parts from Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota, and Honda.
NPR reports that Craig Merriless of the International Longshore Warehouse Union says longshoremen are not striking, but they fully support the protesters.
As protests ground on into the night and early morning, many protesters retired to their tents and went to sleep. Others did not and police ended up arresting up to 65 people for unlawful assembly and other offenses.
The LA Times reports that at one point Occupy members attempted to take a building that formerly housed a homeless outreach centre. The traveller’s Aid Society had lost its funding and the building sits vacant, protesters seized the structure for “reuse” and labelled it a new “community centre.”
Once inside they strung up banners reading “Occupy Everything” and set up barricades to keep out police.
With little choice Oakland officials sent in police suited up in riot gear to disperse crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets. There were reports of minor injuries, but nothing on the scale seen last week with the injury of former Marine Scott Olsen.
By 4:30 a.m. local time most protesters were exhausted and the night’s live blogs shut down. A clearer picture of all that happened will surely be offered as the day goes on.
We will update reports as they come in.
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