Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ian's Account: The Occupy Seattle Port Shutdown, Part 2

This post is a continuation of my account of the December 12th Port shutdown and ensuing events. The original post can be found here.

After we left Terminal 18 in order to take and shut down Terminal 5, a large group of people, around 200 or so, marched over the bridge dividing the two Terminals. We streamed during the entirety of that march and were able to get footage of the scene below at Terminal 18, which can be found in the archives our our Livestream channel (click here to go to the main page). Night had fallen and the temperature dropped. My finger-less gloves were no longer keeping my hands warm.

We head over the bridge toward Terminal 5.

We saw no police presence as we headed up the bridge, something we would come to sorely regret. One motorist, angry at our presence, decided instead of waiting for us to pass that he would put on the gas and speed through our march. We watched in horror as a member of our bike swarm was hit. In order to avoid being dragged under the car, he jumped on the hood and was catapulted over the roof of the vehicle to fall to the side of the road. The car sped away.

In the night, one motorist didn't care to wait for us to pass.  Photo by Joseph H.

The car speeds away. Ian ran to try and get the license plate number, but others were successful.  Photo by Joseph H.

One Occupier, Joseph H., approached a police car that had arrived on scene with lights flashing. He attempted to give the license plate number to the authorities, but the officer rebuffed him until he threatened to take his picture and report him for his failure to act. Information has not yet been forthcoming regarding the hit and run, but the victim miraculously sustained only minor injuries.

At this time, six to seven police cars tore onto the bridge, lights flashing and sirens wailing. Many of us assumed the police cars were headed to apprehend the murderous motorist, however we seem to have been proven wrong. I believe they were headed to Terminal 18, as about 20 minutes later we received phone calls announcing that our friends still blockading the east side of the Port had been attacked. 

Many of us had completed the crossing over the bridge and at this dismaying news, turned around to hurry back to assist in defending our friends. However, organizers who were on the phone with personnel on-site at the blockade reported that Occupy Seattle's wall at Terminal 18 had been successfully removed by police. Somewhat disheartened, we turned back once again and continued on to Terminal 5.

We entered the parking lot to Terminal 5 and immediately set up a picket line there. The parking lot had two entrances, and some activists stayed at those entrances to provide a first line of defense should police move in. Many of us argued with each other as to the best tactics, having been shaken up by the reports of violence used at Terminal 18, but in the end Occupy Seattle set up a circling picket line with people linking arms to block the entrance. 

We blocked the entrance and we waited.

Terminal 5 is Occupied.  Photo by Rendao Liliang

As we milled about in the parking lot, our friends who had been attacked by police joined us. Many puffy faced from pepper spray and all outraged at the assault, they showed us their injuries and we shook our heads in anger.

Injuries sustained during the scuffle with the police.  Photo by Rendao Liliang

Finally police cars pulled into a parking lot across the street and got out of their vehicles. They monitored the situation from afar and we eyed them with suspicion. Our picket went on.

Finally we received a phone call from the union hall: the arbitrator had declared the Port unsafe due to our presence, work was canceled, and we had successfully shut down the Port. Applause erupted, and before police could act against us victory was declared and we marched away, pleased at a successful action.

We were dismayed, however, to learn that the Longshoremen sent home by the union arbitrator were being denied payment for time lost during our picket. Far from usual, this constituted a breach of contract on the part of the Terminal and we swore we would not let this unjust action go without Occupy Seattle's say.

We went to bed, got some rest, and some of us woke up the next morning, ready to return. A 6:30 AM picket was scheduled at Terminal 5, and around 20 of us showed up to express solidarity with longshore workers.

Early morning picket. Longshoremen are looking on, respecting our picket line.

Some workers crossed our picket line, though we thanked them for their work as they entered the Terminal. We later found out that they were machinists, non-ILWU workers who were not obligated to respect our picket. However, about 8 out of 10 of them expressed their support and thanks as they entered the port, with one woman relating to us that the Terminal authorities had denied her health benefits for an injury sustained on the job.

Longshoremen gathered in the parking lot and watched us. They are contractually forbidden for causing a work disruption, but as they huddled up to discuss us one casually sauntered by us. "You would need more people if you wanted to shut down the port," he said. I took a step toward him to ask him a question and he hurried away.

Eventually, the arbitrator arrived and asked us to move out of the parking lot so that the Longshoremen could go to work. We agreed, as we didn't have enough people to hold the line. 

To our shock and delight, he then led a round of applause from the port workers. As they filed into the Terminal, they shook our hands, thanked us, and hugged us. Footage of the applause can be found here, at the end of the video. We have since heard that they will be getting paid for their time on stand-by from the December 13th picket.

In the end, did we change anything? I don't know. Goldman Sachs and EGT, the companies that are the financial beneficiaries of the revenue generated on the backs of longshore workers, will most likely continue their corruption and union-busting tactics. We may very well have to return. But we have definitely sent a message to those who would exploit the working class:

We are the 99%. We are determined, we are focused, and we are angry. If you trample on our workers we will shut down your ports. If you use the police to brutalize us we will take to the streets. We are the ones who are too big to fail, and you would do well to remember that.

Oh, and you know what? I'll be there, filming every minute of it. Smile!


  1. Thank you for your service and for the report.

  2. "Did we change anything?"

    Yes, absolutely we did. Speaking as a part of Occupy Oakland, & specifically as someone who voted against the Port closure, & chose to stand aside from the actions:
    -You participated in a national day of action with thousands of fellow protesters
    -You showed that horizontal, non-hierarchical collectives have staying power & are not just fueled by twitter fad
    -By your own account, you did a remarkable job of being spontaneous & strategic, & taking an action that could've provoked animosity with the workers & making it something that built solidarity
    -You, & the Occupiers all along the coast & throughout the country, answered many of the concerns of stand-asides like me to be, & gave all of us a vital boost of confidence in our movement.

    Thank you all.