Occupy protests shut down 2 Portland terminals, spread to Seattle
Occupy protests targeting ports in California spread up through the Pacific Northwest on Monday, shutting down two main shipping terminals at the Port of Portland before leading to a boisterous march on the Port of Seattle.
Portland's main container terminal, the largest and busiest shipping facility at the port, closed early in the day as about 200 protesters marched in at dawn, setting up a tent and portable toilets.
Demonstrators also shut down nearby Terminal 5, which handles grain and potash shipments. "We're going to see some lost hours, lost shifts -- people won't be able to work today because of this," Josh Thomas, spokesman for the port, told The Times.
Demonstrators linked to the Occupy Wall Street movement set up pickets from San Diego to Anchorage on Monday as part of a coordinated move to shut down ports across the West Coast. In Portland, they carried signs and shouted slogans near trucks waiting to enter the terminals, effectively blocking operations as many port workers refused to cross their lines.
"Sorry for any inconvenience while we fix our democracy," said a sign waved in front of one blocked truck.
As in Los Angeles, protesters in both Portland and Seattle were targeting terminals operated by Stevedore Services of America (SSA Marine), which is locked in a labor dispute with truck drivers in Los Angeles. Occupy movement leaders said SSA's operations are also being singled out because SSA's parent company, Seattle-based Carrix Inc., has Wall Street banking and securities firm Goldman Sachs as a major shareholder.
The biggest unions operating at the Northwest ports did not endorse the shut-downs, though protest organizers said the actions were in part an attempt to express solidarity with union workers' rights. That was the case not only with the Los Angeles truckers, but also in Longview, Wash., where the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has been fighting attempts to block its members from working at a new $200-million grain shipping facility in favor of another union.
Longview's port was closed Monday after about 60 Occupy protesters blocked access to the single ship in port, which was awaiting discharge of a load of iron oxide.
"The decision was made shortly after 8:00 to not work the one vessel we had in today, so approximately 20 longshoremen did not work today," port spokeswoman Ashley Helenberg said.
Occupy Portland organizers said they succeeded in shutting down the two terminals because many port workers refused to cross their moving picket lines.
"The vast majority of workers chose to respect the picket lines. A few did choose to cross it and were let through at Terminal 5. But it was only a handful. The workers in not wanting to cross the line supported this action," David Osborn, an instructor at Portland State University who was acting as a spokesman for the demonstrators, said in an interview.
Thomas said police from a variety of state and federal agencies were on hand to monitor the demonstrations, which were scheduled to ramp up again by late afternoon with a bike swarm and perhaps persist through the night. There were at least three arrests, for possession of a weapon, a stolen vehicle and an outstanding warrant, Thomas said.
In Seattle, demonstrators assembled near the scene of the disbanded Occupy Seattle tent camp and began making their way down to the port, where two rallies were scheduled as a police helicopter circled overhead.
"I think that people would really like to close the port, actually. That's what the posters are saying. They're definitely going to picket, and part of shutting down the port is also whether the labor union members will cross the picket line. That's the big question," Mark Taylor-Canfield, an Occupy Seattle spokesman, told The Times.
"It's definitely not a situation where people want any kind of a confrontation with longshoremen or Teamsters. They are definitely part of the 99%," he added.
The Port of Seattle warned that middle-class wages could be at stake in any attempt to close the port. "Nearly 22,000 men and women work in jobs created by the cargo that moves across the port’s docks. Just one day’s wages for those jobs total $1.9 million –- dollars that can’t be earned if they can’t go to work," the port said in a statement.
In Portland, port administrators said they were fielding growing expressions of frustration over the shutdown, which affected at least five ships and hundreds of trucks poised to load or offload goods at the port.
"The lost wages, that’s a real concern for a lot of people, and we've also heard from some customers today who are really fed up and upset about why they've not been able to get service today, or why things are being delayed as a result of the protests, and we share in that frustration," Thomas said.
-- Kim Murphy in Seattle
Photo: Police on bikes form a line against protesters who shut down two terminals at the Port of Portland on Monday in one of a series of demonstrations targeting West Coast ports. Credit: Natalie Behring / Getty Images