Thousands of protesters from the Occupy Oakland movement descended on the Port of Oakland yesterday, marching across the Highway 880 ramp, climbing atop waiting semis and effectively shutting the port down.
The protesters headed to the port in the late afternoon after flooding downtown Oakland streets, closing and vandalizing four downtown banks. Protesters, many on bikes, moved from the day’s activities downtown, made their way through the port, blocking the gates to the berths, according to an Oakland North report.
Protesters climbed onto scaffolding over railroad tracks as a band played Led Zeppelin’s song “Whole Lotta Love,” using amplifiers powered by stationary bike generators, according to Reuters.
“The reason I’m here is, I’m sick and tired of trying to figure out where I should put my vote between the lesser of two evils,” student Sarah Daniel, 28, told the news service.
At 6:15 pm, port officials announced that “maritime operations are effectively shut down at the Port of Oakland. Maritime area operations will resume when it’s safe and secure to do so.”
Port officials urged protesters to allow port workers to get home safely.
“The Port of Oakland is an economic engine; through our activities and those of our tenants and customers, we support over 73,000 jobs in our region and are connected to more than 800,000 jobs nation wide. These are jobs for the 99%,” officials wrote in a statement.
One semi truck tried to cross the Union Pacific train tracks where a large crowd of protesters had gathered. Someone shouted “No containers out!” through a megaphone, and a large crowd rushed toward the truck waving signs and shouting “Whose port? Our port!,” according the Oakland North report. The crowd entirely surrounded the truck and rocked it until the driver stopped its engine, honked, then waved and backed away.
“I’m done with work, I’m just seeing it through,” Don Wright, a truck driver and member of the Teamsters, told reporters. “I see the cause, and they’re doing it right. I know some people who’ve lost their jobs, their retirement, and it’s because of the banks.”
Wright said the protest wasn’t causing too much inconvenience to truck drivers because they can drive between different warehouses without having to go through the port itself. He added that the state’s biggest port is at Long Beach, near Los Angeles. “If you want justice, you’ve got to go to L.A.,” he told reporters. “That should be the next stop.”
City Administrator Deanna Santana said at a late afternoon press conference that the day’s events had been “largely a peaceful demonstration, with some isolated incidents” of vandalism, graffiti and violence. She pleaded with the public to ensure that everyone involved remain safe, “we need no fires, we need no vandalism, no throwing bottles or rocks or human waste at police officers.”
There were no arrests and injuries as of 9 p.m., according to Howard Jordan, the interim chief of the Oakland Police Dept. There was a report of two protesters being hit by a car, though the extent of any injuries was unknown at the time.
A port spokesman said officials hoped to reopen the facility on Thursday morning.