More than three thousand protesters shut down the Port of Oakland — the nation’s fifth largest container port– in the first general strike called in the city since 1946. Protesters blocked a major intersection and many businesses downtown closed for the day while some of those that remained open posted signs supporting the protesters and only accepting cash, to avoid sending credit card fees to banks and corporations. Protesters climbed atop trucks and shipping containers and blocked the Port of Oakland’s entrances.
While major labor unions spoke in support of the strike, they said their contracts did not allow them to proclaim an official strike. Some said they planned to take paid time off to join the protest. About 10 percent of the longshoremen (40 out of 325) did not show up for work, according to Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. About 200 workers showed up for the 7:00 pm shift, but were told to go home.
Some protesters surrounded trucks trying to leave the Port, while others stood nearby singing, “this land is made for you and me.” A few marchers climbed on top of shipping containers.
Union members in yellow vests were scattered throughout the crowd, directing traffic and trying to prevent confrontations among protesters and between protesters and truckers.
Truck driver Jose Umana of Rodeo was trying to leave the Port around 4 p.m. when protesters blocked his path.
But he wasn’t angry with the demonstrators.
Two women stood on the hood of his truck cab holding up a sign that says, “Disarm Cops. Arm Feminists,” as Umana honked his horn.
At 3:30 pm, Port officials had sent employees in its headquarters near Jack London Square home. At 5:00 pm, Omar Benjamin, the Port’s executive director, asked protesters to “let our 99 percent” go home, saying “We ask that the marchers allow our Port workers safe passage home.” The Port will resume operations “when it safe and secure to do so.” At 7:15 pm, about 200 protesters surrounded a longshoreman driving a truck who was trying to leave. While some yelled “Peaceful. Peaceful,” others began attacking the truck; after about ten minutes, the longshoreman was able to leave.
Below is footage of Angela Davis giving one of the opening speeches on the morning of November 2.
About 18 percent of Oakland’s public school teachers did not show up for work; the district was able to get substitutes for most classrooms or sent students to other classrooms for the day. Paying for the substitutes will cost the Oakland Unified School District about $60,000, according to spokesman Troy Flint.
Police officers were required to show up for work, while public employees of the city were allowed to take the day off. A week after Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen suffered a fractured skull and brain injury when police confronted protesters marching after their encampment had been removed, the police presence was described as minimal on Wednesday. While Olsen has been placed in a medically-induced coma, doctors say that he is expected to recover fully, according to a friend who served with him in Iraq.
On Wednesday, the windows of some banks in downtown Oakland were smashed as well as that of dry cleaner and of a Whole Foods store near Lake Merritt. Interim police chief Howard Jordan said that the vandalism was the work of “60 to 70 anarchists … bent on causing problems“; some protesters clashed with those seeking to damage property.
The city was not entirely paralyzed. The mood was described as “jovial” and the events peaceful for the most part. Some who joined the protests came from the suburbs of Contra Costa County, including a mother with three young children from Danville and two high school students from Pleasanton, who were cutting school with their parents’ permission.
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