Port of Oakland work stoppage gets chaotic

Photo from an earlier work stoppage by at the Port of Oakland by independent drivers.

A work stoppage at the Port of Oakland became somewhat chaotic this morning.

An Oakland police officer had his foot run over by a vehicle crossing a picket line, but opted not to press charges against the driver.

“He’s fine,” said Officer Johnna Watson, a spokesperson for OPD. “He continues to work.”

The incident occurred in front of the gate area of Berths 57, 58 and 59, near 1999 Middle Harbor Road. Picketers gathered early this morning (Wed/27) as part of a work stoppage staged by independent truck drivers who fear job loss on Jan. 1, when their trucks fall out of compliance with new clean-air regulations that will take effect at the port.

Asked for the name of the police officer and the identity of the driver, Watson said, “We’re not going to share any of that information.” She added, “It’s an unfortunate accident. The officer does not want to charge the driver with anything. His primary goal and function was the safety of the protesters in the roadway.”

One of the picketers said a vehicle struck her as it drove across the picket line, but police did not apprehend the driver.

“It all happened really quickly,” said Effie Rawlings, the woman who was struck.  “We were on the picket line. We were walking in circles. There were police there. This one person in a car was trying to pass through. The car lurched into the picket line and hit me. It knocked me off my feet into some other people.” Rawlings said she was bruised and sore but not seriously injured.

She said she did not get a good look at the driver or the vehicle, which continued driving after the collision occurred.

It is unclear whether this was the same vehicle that also ran over the police officer’s foot, but Rawlings said both incidents occurred in the same timeframe. While she did not see the police officer get his foot run over, Rawlings said she did witness the officer’s reaction. “I saw him walking away, making some noise about it. He was kind of cursing and whatnot.”

Watson said police did not receive any reports of anyone else being struck by a vehicle.

The picket began a little after 5am today (Wed/27). The work stoppage was staged by independent truck drivers who are seeking emergency assistance to help them comply with clean-air regulations that will take effect on Jan. 1. Since many cannot afford engine upgrades that would bring them into compliance with the rule change, many will be unable to work at the port as a result.

The Oakland Police Department issued at least five citations to picketers, for blocking traffic. Elizabeth Flynn, who served as a spokesperson for the picketers, estimated that between 50 and 70 gathered at entranceways throughout the port. Watson said police estimated there were 30 to 40 picketers as of 6:30am.

As the Guardian reported in this week’s paper, the California Air Resources Board made $58 million available in 2011 to assist financially strapped truck drivers in obtaining compliant vehicles. Although only $10 million was spent for this purpose, the remainder of that funding was reallocated, and is no longer available for truckers facing possible job loss.