UPDATE DEC. 12, 1:15 P.M.: Though there were several incredibly tense moments at the Port of Long Beach this morning as protesters and police squared off, the day ended without any serious incidents.
Between 200 and 300 Occupy activists from Irvine, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Pasadena converged on the port in an attempt to shut down the SSA Marine terminal partly owned by Goldman Sachs.
The march began at Harry Bridges Memorial Park,
where activists armed with megaphones decried SSA's treatment of drivers, which they say doesn't cover health insurance costs and pays truckers per load shipped. Occupiers say this forces drivers to rush to make ends meet and creates unsafe highway conditions.
Just after 5 a.m., the group marched a mile to Pier J, battered by constant drizzle and winds sweeping in off the adjacent harbor.
Along the way, the group was shadowed by Harbor Patrol and Coast Guard boats, helicopters and police on motorcycles and in cars. When protesters reached the pier, they were met by rows of club-wielding cops who kept the group at bay by ordering everyone via loudspeaker to remain behind the gate or face arrest for trespassing.
During the next two hours, police slowly inched the crowd back in the direction they came while as many as 10 news vans and other media types captured the drama. (Word has it yours truly was featured on none other than KTTV-TV Channel 11 in a moment of deep contemplation--probably after picking his nose.)
International Longshore and Warehouse Union Vice President Bobby Olvera watched the action unfold from the safety of his Chevy Tahoe. When asked for comment, he shook his head and quickly rolled up his window.
The pucker factor was throttled when activists returned to a stretch of South Harbor Scenic Drive near the Island Express Helicopter terminal. There, a massive processional of CHP vehicles raced in and unloaded several officers clad in turtle suits and helmets. At the head of the line was an officer armed with a bright orange shotgun, possibly loaded with beanbags or rubber bullets. It looked as if the Chippies were about to perform a vigorous house cleaning when they suddenly got into their cars and fell back to a position several hundred yards away. Long Beach Police then declared the assembly unlawful and ordered everyone to disperse.
The Port of Long Beach website is reporting minimal disruption
to operations today as a result of the protest. Some Occupiers said police set up cones along the route meant to divert them from their intended path and many acknowledged there was confusion as to whether or not people ended up in the right spot.
"Everybody was like 'What's public property, what's private property," said Santa Ana Occupier Crystal Ngo. "I feel like that's something somebody should have figured out beforehand."
Protesters still expressed a sense of accomplishment at the end of the action. "I think we're getting through to police," said Irvine Occupier Phil Edwards. "We hope to see them on our side next time."
Sam Aresheh and Massimo Marini hold the line.
|Sam Aresheh and Massimo Marini hold the line.|
ORIGINAL POST DEC. 11, 2011 8:55 A.M.: Editor's note: Weekly reporter Brandon Ferguson is currently at the occupation of the Port of Long Beach, where about 200 protestors successfully blocked access to a pier and have been ordered by police to disperse. He will have a dispatch around 10:30 this morning. Here's his preview...
Santa Ana occupiers who gathered at last night's General Assembly estimated between 12 and 15 of the group's own members would be joining activists from Occupy Long Beach and Los Angeles for a large protest geared toward shutting down the Port of Long Beach. Reasons for this action included retaliation for the recent raid on the Los Angeles encampment as well as sending a message to Goldman Sachs. The multi-national investment firm who profited from tax payer money in 2008's bailout own 51 percent of SSA Marine, one of the terminal operators in the harbor. Though the focus of the event was aimed at inequities wrought by massive corporations, Occupiers acknowledged shutting down the port would have a ripple effect on lower and middle class consumers.
It's a tradeoff," said Dylan Thompson. "How can we show we're powerful without doing something about it? If you boycott a company, it effects more than just that company. But by that logic you shouldn't boycott anything. It's for the greater good."
"Politicians in D.C. will have to take notice, and see this [movement] as more than camps," added Matthew Southgate.