Occupy disrupts Pacific ports; arrests in Seattle, NYC, Houston

Jim Seida / msnbc.com

Occupy Seattle protestors block traffic as they march along SW Spokane St. in Seattle, Wash. on their way to the Port of Seattle Monday. Occupy activists worked to shut down ports all along the west coast Monday.

By msnbc.com staff and news services

Updated at 11:45 p.m. ET:

In Seattle, Wash., police used “flash bang” percussion grenades to disperse Occupy protesters at Port of Seattle after the crowd effectively shut down one of the terminals on Monday and then started to block off a second terminal.

An estimated 700 protesters in Seattle formed a blockade at the port after marching from the retail area of the city.

The protest first targeted terminal 18, operated by SSA Marine, in an effort to cut into profits of Goldman Sachs, which is a stakeholder in the large cargo-terminal operator. Goldman is the fifth largest U.S. bank by assets.

Protesters formed picket lines at the entrances, and built a make-shift barricade using plywood, sections of scaffolding, oil drums and shipping pallets, reported msnbc.com’s Jim Seida.

Police told KING TV that demonstrators blocked vehicular traffic and began throwing flares, bags of bricks and paint, rebar and other debris at officers at the scene. At least one officer was injured after being struck in the face by a bag of paint, KING TV reported. Eleven demonstrators were arrested. The official Occupy Seattle Twitter feed also said that police were using pepper spray.

The goal was to keep people out of the facility, while allowing people to leave, he said. One longshoreman who did enter the port said he was sympathetic with the protesters, but couldn’t afford not to work.

Occupy Seattle activist Joshua Farris said that a lot of truckers were held up in snarled traffic caused by the protesters, but that many honked and waved in support. He said he counted more than 80 police, and at least 3 arrests. Farris said the longshoremen were told they would not be paid.

Occupy Seattle activists were keeping in touch with their counterparts in other ports, and prepared to respond if the authorities cracked down at any of these protest sites.

“We were told that if another city was attacked, we would do a more aggressive occupation,” said Farris. “We would take more actions and be more disruptive.”

Updated at 5:55 p.m. ET:

Some 20 activists in solidarity with Occupy groups along the West Coast were taken into custody near the Port of Houston, KPRC TV reported.

Updated at 3:05 p.m. ET:

  • In Oakland, Calif., shipping companies and the longshoremen’s union agreed to send home about 150 workers, essentially halting operations at two terminals.
  • In Longview, Wash., workers were sent home out of concerns for their “health and safety.”
     

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET:

17 Occupy Wall Street protesters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing in downtown New York City, a police spokeswoman tells msnbc.com. The protesters were targeting Goldman Sachs, which has stakes in some port facilities and which Occupy says has been trying to undermine trucker and longshoremen’s unions.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET:

  • Oakland, Calif.: Tractor-trailers en route into the facility, the nation’s fourth busiest container port by volume, were backed up and idle at one entrance where protesters formed a picket line in front of police. Two longshoremen who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity outside the gate said they would refuse to cross picket lines to get to their jobs and assumed others would follow suit.
  • Long Beach, Calif.: Activists scuffled in the rain with helmeted police officers who shoved them with batons in an effort to keep the entryway clear. At least one protester was taken away in handcuffs after the skirmish, and demonstrators later left the area to block traffic along a main thoroughfare through the port. But as rains grew heavier and police converged in force threatening arrests, protesters began to disperse on their own.
  • Portland, Ore.: Motorcycle police confronted some 200 demonstrators who tried to disrupt traffic outside a terminal there. Officers later stood aside and let protesters march to the terminal entrance. The port said two of its four terminals were closed for the day due to security reasons and that 200 workers were told not to show on Monday.

Original story published at 10:30 a.m. ET: Occupy Wall Street activists along the West Coast on Monday took their protest to major ports from California to Alaska, hoping to disrupt trade and, symbolically at least, show that they can reduce corporate profits.

In Portland, Ore., police made two arrests and seized a gun and sword from people who said they were on the way to the Occupy march there. An Occupy Portland spokesman said the men were not part of the group.

Some 200 activists later marched on a maritime terminal, facing off against police on motorcycles and bikes.

In Oakland, Calif., around 1,000 people began picketing at the Port of Oakland before dawn, blocking some trucks from going inside.

“Whose streets? Our streets. Whose ports? Our ports!” were among the chants marched down streets to the port, where they were met by police in riot gear. No clashes or arrests were reported.

Protesters then formed a picket line in front of police to block the entrance.

In Long Beach, Calif., up to 400 activists gathered at a park and planned to march on the Port of Long Beach — and particularly a dock facility whose owners include Goldman Sachs.

Last week the Occupy movement expanded its actions to occupying foreclosed homes. Alfredo Carrasquillo, a homeless father and Occupy Our Homes participant, talks about the strategy.

Efforts to shutdown multiple ports simultaneously could prove difficult because some of the facilities are in massive complexes with numerous entrances that would be hard to fully block, even if protesters turn out in large numbers.

Activists aligned with the Occupy movement did briefly succeed in shuttering maritime operations at Oakland, the nation’s fourth busiest container port by volume, for several hours on Nov. 2 after police there kept their distance.

Oakland, long an Occupy hot spot, was expected again to be center stage on Monday in a day of protest seen as a test of the movement’s momentum.

“The objective of the day is to shut down the port through mass action,” said Mike King, a graduate student who acts as a media liaison for Occupy Oakland. “The Occupy movement is attacking the 1 percent at their point of profit.”

Among those expected to take part in the port protests was Scott Olsen, a U.S. Marine veteran critically wounded in October clashes with police in Oakland in an incident that gave fresh impetus to the Occupy movement.

Mike Blake / Reuters

Members of Occupy San Diego block a worker from driving to the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal on Monday.

“Scott’s decision to demonstrate so soon following a serious injury is symbolic of the Occupy movement’s resilience following a series of nationwide, coordinated crackdowns against the 99 percent,” Iraq Veterans Against the War said in a statement announcing Olsen would take part.

The Port of Oakland has mounted a public relations campaign to dissuade protesters from joining the effort, while two of the largest labor unions involved have split — with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union opposed to the blockade and Teamsters taking a neutral stance.

But union workers were largely expected to stay on the job, and were contractually barred from joining such a strike. The protest will focus in part on truck drivers who earn low wages and cannot join unions because they are classified as independent, and must provide their own trucks.

“It’s a group that encapsulates basically everything that is wrong with society,” King said.

Kimberly White / Getty Images

Protesters attempt to block an entrance to the port in Oakland, Calif., on Monday.

Among the companies at which protesters directed their ire was SSA Marine, which loads and unloads cargo ships. Organizers said they planned to target its terminal at the combined ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach, which together handle 40 percent of the nation’s waterborne imports.

“They are independent contractors,” SSA Marine spokesman Bob Watters said of the nonunion drivers. Truckers provide their own vehicles and the lease agreements are day by day, he said, allowing them to work for many companies.

Oakland port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said the issue of independent truckers was being adjudicated in court, and that the port was working with unions and its tenants to improve the environmental impact of trucking.

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