Longshoremen Union Member Explains Why the Occupy Movement Supports Closing Ports

The Occupy Oakland protest took another violent turn in the dusk hours today when protesters went head-to-head with riot police after a series of defiant actions. According to the Associated Press, some of the protesters “broke into a vacant building, shattered windows, sprayed graffiti and set fires” as well as “threw concrete chunks, metal pipes, lit roman candles and Molotov cocktails.” Police indicated that an estimated 3,000 protesters had gathered earlier in the day at the port, the 5th busiest in the nation, “effectively shut[ting it] down.”

Many of the Occupy Oakland movement protesting at the city’s port declared their solidarity with the Longshoremen’s union in Washington state. In September, longshoremen Port of Longview in Washington stormed a grain shipping terminal, cut the brake lines on rail cars and held security personnel hostage, resulting in violent clashes between union workers and police. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on August 31st had issued a complaint against the union, condemning its “violent and aggressive” actions.

From the Monthly Review, John Hamilton interviews Oakland, CA International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 member and co-chair of the Million Worker March Movement, Clarence Thomas (not the SCOTUS Clarence Thomas), who explains why the Occupy movement is supporting the ILWU and closing of the port:

[vimeo 31513028]

The partial transcript from Monthly Review is below:

“One of the reasons why they are doing it is because they are trying to defend ILWU workers in Longview, Washington, who are facing a behemoth of agribusiness, EGT. The driving force behind EGT is a leading agribusiness concern called Bunge. . . . Longshoremen have a debt of gratitude to the people who have organized this action today. . . . 30% of the funding of our pensions comes from that grain operation in the Pacific Northwest. This is an attempt to rupture the jurisdiction of longshore workers that we’ve had for over 77 years in this country. Wall Street is on the move, on the waterfront, looking for new profits, and the community are standing with the ILWU.

They are standing with us for a reason. They know about 1984, when longshoremen refused to unload cargo from South Africa for 11 days. They know about the ILWU shutting down all 29 ports in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal. They know about the ILWU shutting down all 29 ports on May Day, International Workers’ Day, to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They understand about the ILWU and the actions that we took by not crossing the picket line in response to the murder on the high seas of those humanitarian activists taking supplies to Gaza. The ship was shut down for 24 hours, the Zim Line ship from Israel. They know about the actions that we took last October in support of Oscar Grant. And this resonates with the community. So now the community is saying: We want to stand in support of the ILWU. So, this connection is genuine, it’s legitimate, and we embrace it.”

Early last month, the leftist publication SocialistWorker.org hinted at such coming activity:

“Corporate arrogance could provoke a first-ever shutdown of all U.S. ports at once. And Panama Canal pilots, who recently joined the ILWU, as well as the International Dockworkers’ Council and the International Transport Workers Federation, are also on board.”

Mumia Abu-Jamal was a former Black Panther who was convicted and sentenced to death for murdering a Philadelphia policeman in 1981. The ILWU organized a work stoppage at West Coast ports in 1999 to protest the execution of Abu-Jamal.

When the Mavi Marmara (the so-called Gaza Freedom Flotilla) attempted to break Israel’s established Gaza blockade in international waters on May 31st, 2010, resulting in the deadly conflict between Israeli security forces and activists, Palestinian trade unions called for a work stoppage on Israeli cargo, and for dockworkers in the US to stand in solidarity against “Israel’s occupation and apartheid.” Here at BigGovernment.com, we brought you similar protest footage from that day of solidarity from leftist activist Lisa Fithian, where one of her activists leads the chant, “Long live Intifada!”.

The power of the people can be a very useful tool in forcing positive change through democratic direct action, we’ve seen it with both sides of the political spectrum. But, left to the hands of organizers who may not necessarily have America’s best interests at heart, it can also be abused – for instance, to shut down every port – and cause severe harm to the economy of our nation. These are not actions that should be taken lightly, or for ideological reasons.

While the Occupy Movement purports to represent the 99%, upon hearing some of the comments above, I’d question whether that majority really shares the same views.

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