On December 12, 2011 coordinated action by the Occupy movement resulted in the full or partial shutdown of Ports along the Pacific Rim, including Oakland, Long Beach, San Diego, Houston, Portland,
Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver and Anchorage--as well as the Port of Maui and the major inland river Port of Hueneme.
In the Ports where actual stoppage occurred, longshore workers refused to cross community picket lines and truckers didn't show up to work. Port truckers, who are not unionized and cannot legally unionize in most cases, issued a national open letter of thanks to the movement for taking action. 26 truckers had recently been fired in LA for wearing Teamster T-shirts; the initial inspiration for the West Coast blockade had come from short-haul truckers who planned to stop work on the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe - December 12th.
In Oakland, protesters successfully shut down multiple shifts at the port, maintaining pickets outside the port for nearly 24 hours. In the evening, a 5,000-person General Assembly voted to maintain the blockade at the Port until 3 a.m. in response to police attacks in Houston, Seattle and elsewhere:
The call for the blockade and the successful shutdown has provoked intense debate on a number of levels. In Oakland, members of the city council introduced emergency legislation to ban future actions at them Port. Within the organized and un-organized working class, the Occupy move has drawn attention to the divide between elected International leadership and the rank-and-file in U.S. unions; the question of who will lead workers during this crisis and where has now been raised. Within Occupy, the action has been the first major national response to the coordinated attack on the camps in the last month. The port shutdown actions have set a direction for a movement that will have to develop and choose between strategies--if it is to survive into the new year.
Protests also received coverage in international outlets and the domestic mainstream media:
And, in a bizarre turn of events, police deployed an orange tent over protesters blocking the port of Houston, in order to execute their arrests out of view of news cameras:
Tomorrow morning, the occupy movement will attempt to shut down every major port on the West coast of the United States, in solidarity with Longshore workers and occupations under attack across the country. The West Coast Port Shutdown has been endorsed by unions and occupations as far away as Honolulu, Tokyo and New York City, with solidarity demonstrations planned in other locations.
Below is a video from today's press conference at the Port of Oakland, as well as an article on the upcoming actions from a comrade in the Bay Area, originally posted on CounterPunch.
Occupy and Class Struggle on the Waterfront
December 12th West Coast Port Shutdown
by Mike King
On December 12th, the entire Occupy movement on the West Coast will blockade their respective ports to shut down “Wall Street on the Waterfront.” This is both an effort to build a mass social struggle in the US against the 1% and a coordinated response to the coordinated attacks against our movement in the last few weeks. If the police repress any of our actions on the West Coast that day, the blockade will continue up and down the coast. This historic action is being taken on independent of existing authorities – from the mayor and police to the unions themselves, who are unable to legally support such actions even if they wanted to. The 1% has been pulling every lever at their command to delegitimate and criminalize the movement. On the 12th we will demonstrate our growing social power, attacking the 1% at their point of profit while expanding and deepening the movement in the workplace, communities, schools and the social imaginary.
The 1% is not simply an abstract slogan. They are the corporations that pay no taxes. They are the financial institutions that drove the economy into the ground. They are the bailed-out bank that won’t re-write your under-water mortgage with the taxpayer funds your grandkids will still be paying for decades from now. The 1% are embodied in the politicians that send your kids or spouses off to fight wars that defend nothing but the profits of the 1%, leaving hundreds of thousands dead all over the world, as veterans with PTSD and Gulf War Syndrome return home to shoddy services and no jobs. When these veterans have stood up for the people of this country on the streets of Oakland, they have been beaten and shot in the head with police projectiles, from a police force freshly trained by the Israeli and Bahrainian military to repress popular protest.
The same bosses that have paid you less in exchange for longer hours and higher productivity for decades; the same politicians who have made you pay more taxes in exchange for de-funded or closed public schools, rising state college tuitions and gutted social services; this political and economic coalition that has brought about the highest degrees of inequality in US history; these are the 1%, and all of them must go.
Luis Fernandez, a comrade and associate professor at Northern Arizona University, spoke on the KPFA program "Letters and Politics" about the history and development of the police strategies being used to repress the occupy movement.
Fernandez's segment begins at 31 minutes, 15 seconds. An mp3 version of the show is available for download here.
A few days ago, the Occupy Oakland general assembly decided against a proposal to change the name of the occupation to Decolonize Oakland. The assembly debated the subject for several hours before a vote was finally called, in which a majority voted in favor of the name change, but fell just short of the 70% needed to see the proposal to its next stage. After the vote, supporters of the proposal took over the general assembly with their own mic checks to express their disappointment and outrage.
Debate on the name change and its political significance has continued online in different forms, and we've re-posted a few selections here. Below is a video of the assembly the night of the vote accompanied by an open letter, as well as a public email exchange between Bay Area activists Darshan and Boots Riley of the hip-hop group The Coup.
Open Letter to the Occupy Movement
***please watch until the end to see the GA takeover!***
Open Letter to the Occupy Movement:
This movement has the potential to evolve into something beautiful, something that takes into account the issues affecting all of us—not just the white, college educated members of the 99%.
If you try to hinder this growth because you claim it will destroy the movement, you will only be left behind while a more radical autonomous platform is built. The new platform will center the experiences of people of color, of women, of other groups that have been marginalized by a white majority.
We are not asking for permission to rename the movement anymore. The movement-—the wave of empowerment that people are waking up to internationally-—does not belong to you. It was around before the occupy movement and it will be around long after it leaves us. Resistance is only truly sustainable if it holds sacred the struggles of the most oppressed and we will call our movements, our resistance, our struggle, whatever we want.
Thank you for taking the time to watch this film and reflecting on what role you wish to play in making movements truly liberating.
A note on the footage: this is not an extensive video of the GA, as I was late and did not film everything. there were many white people who spoke in favor of the proposal (I included the one I filmed) and there were a few people of color who spoke against it. The majority of people present at what appeared to be a majority people of color GA voted in favor (68.5 percent) of changing the name to Decolonize Oakland.
Letter from Darshan
When I first heard your music, almost two decades ago, I swooned at the political insight, at the beats, at beauty of seeing Black people using the mic to check white power, corporate capitalism, and misogynist shenanigans. You and Pam the Funkstress created a space for me in hip hop at time when I felt sidelined in that movement.
When I first started coming to the encampment at Ogawa/Grant Plaza, I felt a similar sense of excitement. Here was a brother who was making sure that the table was long and wide, welcoming of everyone and especially those of us at the margins of the 99% in Oakland. You made me hopeful that together we were capable of turning that table into barricade against police violence and a platform for liberation, pure and sweet and real. Hearing your comments at the General Assembly last night as we were debating the name change - Occupy Oakland to Decolonize/Liberate Oakland - made me sad and angry; I felt like you stole the table, rearranged the seating charts, and left me at the door.
This is my mic check of a different kind, an open email letter.
When you spoke last night, you mentioned that the name of The Coup doesn’t alienate people from your message. Even though coups are associated with right-wing paramilitary movements, you noted, The Coup is not. There is no confusion over your name, no ambiguity about your message. You then chided supporters of the proposal for the name change for confusing words with deeds and emphasized your support for
the name Occupy Oakland.
Boots, your comparison stinks. It overlooks people like me who want a name that better reflects the movement of the 99% as it exists in Oakland. It ignores the voices of the Chochenyo Ohlone and native sisters like Krea Gomez and Morning Star Gali who assert that the name Occupy Oakland replicates the violence of colonialism. It turns the phrase the 99% into an empty sales pitch, and I’m not buying it. Your comparison cuts the movement down to size, recentering white entitlement to the “seats of power.” As if that’s the goal. I didn’t come to this movement to sit down. I came to rise up and decolonize Oakland.
“Life is a challenge, and you gotta team up.
If you play house pretend the man clean up.
You too busy with the other things you gotta do.
When you start something, now remember, follow through.”
- The Coup, 2001
Clean your draws, Boots.
Response from Boots
To start, I'm gonna try to ignore the offensive sign off remark.
When AIM took over Alcatraz in the 70s, they said- "We are Occupying Alcatraz". The same word was used at Wounded Knee, I believe. Throughout Mexico, Central America, and South America- when movements take over a space- they "occupy" it. The word is used in very revolutionary ways. It's obviously not just about the word.
I honestly believe that even POC movements of the last 30 years in the bay area especially- of which I feel like I've been a part of- has been very isolated from communities of color and don't have their finger on the pulse of what will involve them. The reasons have to do with the campaigns we've embarked on and the style that we've approached them. The focus on this word is indicative of that.
I'm all about decolonizing.
I'm all about fighting capitalism.
I have only no songs, since 1994 that use the word "capitalism". I have only 1 song since then that uses the word "communist". However, everyone knows that I'm a communist and that I want to destroy capitalism. This is because I talk about what we need to do and what's wrong with this system without using the same terminology.
Most folks of color have no idea what the term decolonize means. It is not a liberating term to most, it is simply another term that academics use. Similarly, most don't even have the political connotation with the word Occupy as it relates to colonialism.
Also, the debate over the name change hasn't been POC on one side and white folks on the other. There were both POC and White folks voting for the name change, and POC and White folks voting against. Your view about the name change doesn't make you somehow more on the side of people of color than I am.
Like I said, Saturday, I canvassed door-to-door in West Oakland. ACCE has been canvassing door-to-door in East Oakland since just after Nov 2. What I hear from the response from folks at ACCE and from my own interactions with folks of color that I know in Oakland, is that people are excited by OO, if a little confused on the ultimate goal, the name is the identifier, and they feel that it is connected to the larger movement and that it actually has the ability to change things through direct action. One of the reasons people feel its connected to the larger movement is the name.
Of course, the MAIN thing against it that people of color voice--particularly the Black folks I talk to--is "Oh, you mean all the White folks downtown?"
That doesn't change with the name.
It will only change through involving ourselves in campaigns that people feel have the power to affect their material condition in their daily life. This is something that even POC movements in my lifetime have failed to do.
The real problems of race and racism in this and any movement don't begin to get solved with a name change. They begin with a movement that actually addresses the material needs of people of color and one which makes space for people of color. Let's talk about the remedies to those problems.
Although you say my comparison stinks, you did not negate it's analogical validity.
My opinion doesn't overlook your, or anyone's opinion. It disagrees with yours.
Please don't come at me disrespectfully with comments like "Clean your draws, Boots".
In New York City, neighborhood and borough assemblies are taking shape outside the organizational infrastructure at Occupy Wall Street, which currently operates out of indoor spaces and privately-owned public plazas downtown. Autonomous assemblies have arisen in Harlem, Washington Heights, Brooklyn, Sunset Park and the Bronx, some adopting the "occupy" moniker and others opting for "reclaim."
In recent weeks, the Occupy the Bronx general assembly has spearheaded a range of actions, including petitioning for welfare reform, storming a community board in solidarity with an evicted community garden, and holding a speakout against police violence and march on a local precinct. This past weekend, the Occupy the Bronx general assembly was targeted for preemptive arrests by the NYPD, and protesters responded with a rally outside the precinct and march through the neighborhood. The events were covered by local media and the Daily News.
In Philadelphia this week, protesters and community members working with Occupy Philly re-entered and occupied the home of Florence Mason, a black woman whose family had been brutalized and evicted by police, after Mason filed complaints about the slumlord who was bleeding her building and skimping on repairs. A crowd of people de-evicted Ms. Mason, documented the conditions of the building, and held a rally and press conference on her front porch.
We have posted video and photos from the event below. An
Later that same night, cops cleared the Occupy Philly encampment under the orders of Mayor Michael Nutter. After the initial raid, demonstrators vied with police for control of the streets, before eventually being met with mounted police. Many videos and accounts of the raid are available on the Occupy Philly website, and in the mainstream media coverage.
The following piece was written by the November 13th group in Portland, Oregon, which includes some members of BtR-Portland.
It analyzes and draws conclusions from the events of November 13th, 2011, when crowds faced down riot police in a successful defense of Occupy Portland, with implications for the occupy movement nationally.
The Lessons of Saturday Night
by the November 13th Group
—chanted on the streets of Portland, Oregon on the morning of Sunday, Nov 13th while riot police menaced the crowd
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
Saturday night, and the subsequent raids and police actions nationally, have made a number of points clear:
1. This movement is no longer made up of just those staying at the encampments, nor those participating in the Assemblies. In Oakland and Portland, we’ve seen that large numbers of the population who are not camping or are unable to attend nightly meetings are still willing to come out in support of the Occupy movement.
2. The argument that “We can’t afford to disrupt life for the 99%” doesn’t always hold water. When Occupy Portland publicly defied both the Police and the City by insisting it would stay, Portlanders rallied behind it in numbers that matched those of day one of Occupy. Occupy Portland’s willingness to disrupt business as usual for the 1% and portions of the 99% in their employ found massive support—and that support won the night for Occupy Portland. Occupy Oakland’s call for a General Strike in response to state repression found somewhere well beyond 20,000 people marching behind it, shutting down Oakland’s economic foundation, the Port of Oakland. Our strength lies in our willingness to disrupt business as usual for the 1% and their tools.
3. There is a national strategy emerging against the Occupy movement. In Portland (as elsewhere), this has consisted of attempts to demonize the protest encampments with tales of violence, drug use, and even bomb-making. Cities across the country appear to be issuing versions of the same press release, uniformly citing health and safety concerns. These attempts at discrediting the movement have come alongside ‘soft’ police violence. Since the General Strike in Oakland, in response to massive and publicly-viewed police brutality against the Occupy movement, the State has concluded (at least temporarily) that the political costs of deploying overwhelming force against the Occupy movement in view of the public are too high—every time it does so, the movement’s numbers swell.
4. The Police are not our allies. Individual cops may be our friends or neighbors, they may be workers like ourselves, but the role and function of police is as enforcers for the 1%. Relatively soft treatment early on inspired some occupiers to view the police as allies, but now it is evident that the police will beat us and destroy our encampments for the 1%.
Policing and crime enforcement in the United States are structured entirely around race and class. When the poor and marginalized demand power, the 1% will always cry “criminals!” The 1% can gamble away our pensions, take our savings, foreclose our homes, destroy social security and run our economy into the ground—and what happens? The federal government rains dollars over them in the billions. Daily enforcement of drug laws, property crimes, and petty statutes disproportionately target out the poor, people of color and the homeless. These policies are known failures at preventing anti-social behavior. Through incarceration, parole, probation and street-level policing, the 1% maintains a constant and ever-tightening control over the sectors of society most likely to rebel.
If Occupy Portland is truly committed to a diverse movement of the 99%, it cannot afford to simply conclude that “the Police are our friends.” We embrace the position heard in the streets Sunday: “the police can join the rest of the 99% when they put down their batons and take off their riot gear.” To this we would add “and when they cease to kill and incarcerate our brothers and sisters in our neighborhoods and streets.”
The following piece is a response by Noel Ignatiev to last night's police raid on the Occupy Wall Street encampment in Zuccotti park, originally posted on the PM Press Blog.
The overnight clearing of Zuccotti Park by the police, following similar actions by police in Denver, Portland, Oakland and Atlanta, brings to a close one phase of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some will reproach the movement for not fighting back harder against the police. (To their credit, a minority adopted “guerilla” tactics, running through the streets dodging cops.)
That reproach is beside the point. When the police hesitate, militant resistance may sway them; that is what happened in Portland, Oakland and earlier in New York. But no unarmed crowd in a public park is a match for organized and trained police who are determined to do their duty. The only hope is to reach out to new forces.
Resisting police violence with violence may accomplish that: in 1968 the sight of students in Paris battling police sparked a general strike. With the partial exception of Oakland, no such development occurred here.
There may be times when it is necessary to fight even when defeat is certain: Trotsky, for example, denounced the Communist Party policy of advocating retreat in the face of Hitler, declaring that ten unsuccessful proletarian insurrections one after another would be less demoralizing to the German working class than allowing Hitler to take power peacefully. But the clearing of the parks does not mean the triumph of Hitler: the ruling class is still operating with its traditional instruments of carrot, club and cry of alarm, a blend of repression and concession. The people who took the initiative in this movement are still at liberty, free to try again.
OWS is the biggest upsurge in the U.S. since the 1960s. It drew in people with no history of political activity, and tested both them and the more experienced. It won near universal admiration even from people who were not ready to join it. In its conscious self-identification with movements in other countries, especially in the Arab world, it delivered a blow to American provincialism (and, by implication, to Zionism). Its refusal to define itself by what are sometimes called “reasonable” demands—a refusal that drove old-style reformists crazy—may turn out to be its most enduring legacy.
Phase one has ended. Phase two will pose new tasks.
In Portland last night, protesters defied a mayoral request to vacate Occupy Portland, rallying hundreds of supporters to stand down a midnight eviction order. Mainstream media reports that the crowd swelled to thousands at some points in the night. From a BtR member on the ground:
I have just returned from a 12 hour demonstration, of which 8 hours was a stand-off with the police, the police union ,and the entire city establishment. And we won on every front.
We went into tonight's march hoping to help avoid the separation of,"arrestables and unarrestables," and to shatter the liberal city establishments line that,"if people want to be arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience, we can facilitate that." Our goal was to make clear-there is no nonviolent way to forceably remove people from the park, and if you do so, we will demand that you show the city what level of violence you are willing to employ to do so.
As evening approached, I neared the park-comrades had committed that we would commitedly support the small number of folks in the encampment who had barricaded themselves in and those who had committed to being arrested to stop the police attack--but that we would attempt to offer ways for the masses of people coming down to participate in resisting in a manner which did not neccessitate either standing on the sidelines or guaranteeing arrest. Our tendency won the night overwhelmingly.
Nearing the park around 9pm, we felt grim and tense-a few hundred people had gathered in the parks, with some energy marching around, but largely corralled by police-forced into crosswalks, onto sidewalks, police corraling marches at stoplights. Our commitment to support those most willing to resist unflagged, but many of us felt that the City jail might be in our near future.
As eleven o'clock arrived, chants grew bolder, and the squares began to amass people. By the midnight deadline, streets had been reclaimed, thousands were in the streets and in the park, and the energy and boldness of the crowd meant that those who were committed to symbolic arrests had been swept into a crowd which was on its feet, facing down the riot police who were mustering to sweep the park. By the midnight deadline to leave the parks , the police were lined out of the park, and across multiple defensive lines, a simultaneous countdown began! At zero, the crowd burst into loud cheers. Within hours, more streets were claimed, and the riot police were backing away from the crowd's defensive lines, steps at a time.
In Chicago, teams of people are performing on public transit to connect the experiences of working class communities with Occupy Chicago.
For those of you with Facebook, here is a video from a recent Occupy Springfield rally in Springfield, Mass.
The following piece, written by a comrade in the Bay Area, analyzes the current moment for Occupy Oakland and the occupation movement more broadly. It was also published on CounterPunch.
By Mike King
The historic and diverse protests that took place all day and into the night in Oakland on November 2nd marked a clear advancement of the Occupy movement. Though it was not a full general strike, it took advantage of overlapping political opportunities to broaden and deepen a struggle that is evolving and expanding by the day. The movement is organically evolving in stages that are taking place so quickly that it is difficult to fully capture. One thing is clear: Oakland was a different place on Thursday morning than it was when people got ready to hit the streets on Wednesday.
Cynical or duplicitous evaluations tend to complain that the movement has no demands, or that it has too many demands, or that the demands are unreasonable. It is not so much a matter of demands on the existing social relations and institutions; it is about abolishing some structures, transforming others, and creating new ones. The fact that 20,000 people responded to an organic call to shut down the city that was unapologetically and unambiguously anti-capitalist is an honest indication of the overall politics of the movement. Today’s question is: “What’s next?” As Wednesday’s multiple and diverse actions demonstrated clearly, there is no lack of good responses or collective energy. Because of the context, good ideas are becoming practical solutions. Occupy Oakland is not done. Looking at the solidarity actions in various US cities and around the world, the broader movement is not done either.
The crisis is more powerful than the forces trying to manage it
Wednesday’s actions, highlighted by the complete shut-down of one of the biggest ports on the West Coast, pushed the local movement from public occupation to mass movement. It also broadened what “occupation” means in Oakland and foreshadowed a likely future of more occupations of empty properties. The 9pm occupation of an abandoned center for the homeless was both symbolic and strategically minded, although the resulting skirmishes that resulted have been hotly, if not always strategically or contextually, debated. The whole day of action was a pivotal moment in the Occupy movement, one that expanded the limits of what is politically feasible and inspired hope in others to push harder wherever they are. Pivotal moments are generally a coming together of revolt and solidarity from below and contradictions and crisis above. Oakland has found itself blessed with both in the same moment, with the former helping to exacerbate the latter.
Former Oakland Police Chief Batts stepped down in recent weeks due to a stated lack of autonomy and resources in a city where police murders of unarmed men of color are common, officers are unaccountable, and the OPD controls 2/3rds of the city budget. The OPD wanted to have a free hand to destroy the occupation, which they would not get until after Batts resigned, which helped create an immediate stir for a mayoral recall campaign. The picture is more complicated, as Homeland Security, other federal forces, 17 agencies of state police and local police forces coordinate in the Bay Area as an ongoing reality, geared to quickly respond to mass protests, as they did in the movement that grew out of the police killing of Oscar Grant. The exact political reasoning and bureaucratic dynamics of the overall lack of aggression during the day Wednesday by police has yet to be fully examined. The basic reality is that a gap between the Mayor and police forces, whatever its nature and however big it is (or was), created a political opening. The lack of a sitting police chief, public backlash to the eviction of the occupation on the morning of October 25th, the (possibly deliberate) shooting of Marine veteran Scott Olsen that night, the re-occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza and overwhelming public participation the next night calling for a general strike, and the international visibility of the day of action all played a role in widening the political opening. We forced the door open and have walked through it. Now what?