Early this morning, the protesters carrying out Oakland’s part in yesterday’s national “West Coast Port Shutdown” declared victory after 24 hours of demonstrations. After picketing during both the 8am and 6pm shifts at the Port of Oakland yesterday, protesters decided to extend the day of action to the 3 am shift today (Tues/13).
Occupy Oakland’s General Assembly had voted to extend the shut-down if there was police violence against Occupy protesters in other participating cities; Occupy groups from Anchorage to San Diego participated, and protesters were tear-gassed in Houston and Seattle.
After a successful morning action, thousands of protesters arriving on a march to picket the 6pm shift were surprised to find that it had already been canceled. In an emergency General Assembly, protesters exchanged information about solidarity actions across the country and chose to continue the shutdown.
Protesters marched to Gate 60, where they commenced what one long-time OccupySF protester called a “festival in the streets.” Sound trucks with live music and DJs entertained the crowd while others played live music; a handful of tents were pitched.
At 1:20 am, the picket began again. Demonstrators circled in front of the gate entrance, chanting “Oakand is a union town!” and slogans against Export Grain Terminal (EGT), a grain elevator operator with which the ILWU has been in dispute since 2009.
Port workers began to arrive around 1:30 am, and many were surprised to see that the picket had been extended. One man, one of the earliest to arrive, seemed exasperated, saying “This is still going on? I didn’t show up yesterday, but I drove here from Fairview today.”
Others reacted differently. When a protester greeted one man and explained the reason for the continued protest, he responded, “Listen, I’m from (ILWU) Local 10. We’re a militant union. I’m used to this kind of thing.”
Clarence Thomas, past secretary-treasurer of ILWU Local 10 and third generation Oakland longshoreman, expressed a similar sentiment of solidarity in a recent interview with Workers World, saying, “If ILWU members don’t honor the community picket lines, it will cause an irreparable breach with the community. If the ILWU can’t support the community, why should the community support the ILWU in 2014 contract negotiations or when the new grain agreement is up next year?”
At 1:45 am, dozens of Occupy supporters, many of whom had left the “port shutdown” action to get some rest with plans to return in the early hours of the morning, began marching to the port from 7th and Adeline streets to join the picket lines.
By 2:30 am, protesters were marching in community picket lines at gates 60, 63, 67 and 68, with over 100 at the first three locations and about 20 in an all-bike picket line at the fourth. A handful of workers crossed the picket line and went to work. The majority who arrived for work – a light turnout, as news of the picket traveled quickly – did not cross the picket line. Many did stay, however, and engage in political conversations with Occupy protesters.
By 3:15 am, the shift had been officially canceled. A general assembly of Occupy protesters and representatives from the ILWU met to discuss next steps. ILWU steward Anthony Lavierge addressed the group, saying, “This was called in solidarity with the Longshoremen, and in my opinion another day would harm that relationship. However, this is a community picket, and in the end it’s up to you what you decide to do.
Though some protesters wanted to continue to extent the blockade, they were overwhelmingly voted down by those who felt the time was right to declare victory. Samantha Levins, an Alameda/Oakland ferry worker and organizer with the Inland Boatmans Union/ILWU, stayed until the protest dispersed at 3:45am. She told the Guardian, “Today was great. It was extremely well organized and everybody was really respectful.”
Levins saw the day of action as a step forward for Occupy in the direction of working more closely with unions. She said, “It really opens up possibilities (for Occupy) to work more with unions. They’ve proven they can do it in a respectful way. ”