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Oaklandâ€™s Port Shuts Down as Protesters March on Waterfront
BayBak, Azerbaijan | 566 days ago | Thursday, 3rd November , 2011 , 04:21 [am] | International
|.|| Thousands of Occupy Oakland protesters expanded their anti-Wall Street demonstrations on Wednesday, marching through downtown, picketing banks and swarming the port. By early evening, port authorities said maritime operations there were effectively shut down.
â€œMaritime area operations
Thousands of Occupy Oakland protesters expanded their anti-Wall Street demonstrations on Wednesday, marching through downtown, picketing banks and swarming the port. By early evening, port authorities said maritime operations there were effectively shut down.
â€œMaritime area operations will resume when it is safe and secure to do so,â€ port officials said in a statement, asking marchers to â€œallow your fellow 99% to get home safe to their families.â€
Despite the disruption of work, the crowd at the port was peaceful.
Protesters had called for a citywide general strike on Wednesday, and asked other demonstrators in cities across the country to do the same, after violent clashes with the police here last week that included tear gas barrages and injuries involving both police officers and protesters.
While the city was not shut down by the protest, many businesses chose to remain closed Wednesday. Some that stayed open posted signs declaring their support for the marchers.
Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland, a supporter of the movement who had nevertheless come under fire from the protesters after last weekâ€™s confrontations, had called for a minimal police presence on Wednesday. The police did keep a very low profile throughout the afternoon as the crowd grew and as splinter groups of hundreds of protesters broke off from the main body and pushed into surrounding streets.
â€œWe support many of the demands, particularly the focus on foreclosures, fair lending practices and making capital available to low-income communities,â€ Ms. Quan said at a news conference.
Police officers needed to be on hand, she said, to protect everyoneâ€™s free-speech rights in balance with legitimate public safety concerns.
Some of the protesters blocked entrances to branches of Chase and Wells Fargo banks shouting: â€œBanks got bailed out. We got sold out.â€
For more than a week, protesters had circulated strike posters and leaflets throughout the city reading â€œNo Work. No school. Occupy Everywhereâ€ and â€œLiberate Oakland and shut down the 1 Percent.â€
Protesters in New York, Boston and Philadelphia also marched on Wednesday, some expressing solidarity with Oaklandâ€™s event.
The protesters here marched late Wednesday afternoon to Oaklandâ€™s waterfront, home to the fifth-busiest shipping port in the country, to try to shut it down. Rumors circulated through the crowd earlier in the day that port workers had failed to show up for their morning shifts, but port officials said that was not the case and that all seven maritime terminals were operating during the day.
About 40 port workers out of 325 did not report for work on Wednesday, said Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which did not authorize a strike.
But by early evening, Mr. Merrilees said, the port was shut down.
â€œNothing is coming in or out of here right now” he said.
He said workers were en route for the 7 p.m. shift, but he â€œhighly doubtsâ€ they would be able to get through protesters.
The port has been closed for several hours in the past during similar mass protests, he said.
City offices remained open on Wednesday, though city officials reported that 5 percent of workers were absent and believed to be participating in the strike. About 300 of the Oakland Unified School Districtâ€™s 2,000 teachers also took the day off and schools reported small increases in student absences, according to district officials.
The marquee of the Grand Lake theater replaced movie titles with a statement reading: â€œWe proudly support the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Closed Wed. to support the strike.â€
Ms. Quan, meanwhile, urged protesters to patronize and not penalize the downtown businesses that remained open. The mood at the protest remained jovial throughout the day as ice cream vendors, pushing their carts, joined the marchers, though some graffiti appeared on the walls of banks and there were reports of several broken windows at banks and other businesses.
Police officials said no arrests had been made as of Wednesday afternoon.
In addition to the city residents who took part in the protest, people drove in from across the state to participate.
Lenore McAllister, 30, arrived from Danville, about 22 miles east, with her three children, ages 4, 3 and 1. Her 4-year-old daughter held a sign that read, â€œToddlers are the 99 percent and even we share.â€
Her children thought they were at a parade, Ms. McAllister said. â€œI support the Occupy Oakland movement,â€ she added. â€œIâ€™m here to teach my children to share by teaching the banks to share.â€nytimes, Voice of a Nation