PRESS RELEASE: Occupy Seattle: A New Phase for the Workers’ Movement

December 13, 2011

[Note: This article was written by several members of Occupy Seattle who were closely involved with organizing for the December 12th West Coast Port Shut Down. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect all of Occupy Seattle.]

Occupy Seattle: A New Phase for the Workers’ Movement

SEATTLE, Wash — Monday, December 12th, Occupy protesters and allies shut down several major ports along the West Coast. In Seattle, we stopped all evening work at Terminals 18 and 5, causing millions in profit loss to major corporations Stevedoring Services of America, American President Line, and Eagle Marine Services.

Yesterday’s actions drew a wide swath of the 99%. Protesters of all ages demonstrated, and people of color turned out in large numbers. The protests included a coordinated city-wide high school walkout, a rally emceed by Hip Hop Occupies, and a three mile march to the ports. The shutdown was organized by members of Occupy Seattle in solidarity with Occupy Oakland and with the struggles of LA, Oakland, and Seattle port truckers and Longview longshore workers. Occupy Seattle’s People of Color caucus produced need-to-know guides for the action.

The shutdown was solidly an Occupy action, funded by the heartfelt donations of occupiers and their supporters, and a hefty donation from Occupy Oakland. We received absolutely no material support from any union. This was a direct action in the truest sense of the term: it was rapid-fire, organized on a shoestring budget, bypassed stalling bureaucracy, and mobilized the energy of an inspired community united against economic injustice.

The actions were planned with special attention to the long tradition of democracy and direct action within the ILWU. We picketed Terminals 18 and 5 in light of the longstanding ILWU principle of respecting other pickets. Union policy dictates that if arbitrators rule that picket lines are too dangerous to cross, ILWU workers will be compensated for the work they missed.

The protests were wildly successful. Truck drivers and port workers repeatedly expressed support for the protesters, waving and honking as they passed.

Terminal 18–the Port of Seattle’s largest and busiest terminal–was the first to be shut down. Protesters took the main intersection, swiftly forming a blockade of roadside debris to stop the incoming shift, while redirecting outgoing traffic onto one lane. This effectively blocked three gates, while the fourth had been shut down by the port in anticipation of the action. The Seattle Police Department, not protesters, temporarily stopped workers and truckers from leaving the port by forming a bike chain as protesters yelled at them to “let the trucks through.”

Under pressure from protesters, police backed away, but later stopped traffic once again, stating that they were trying to clear the road for police convoys to enter. In solidarity with the protesters, the truckers honked their horns loudly and persistently, and the frustrated calls of the crowd forced the cops back off the road. Occupiers then continued to direct traffic out of the port, delivering flyers of Scott Olsen’s statement to drivers as they passed (see below).

At 5pm, reports came through that the union arbitrator had ruled in favor of protesters, deeming the picket too dangerous to cross. The shipping company called off work at Terminal 18 for the evening. In accordance with union contract, dispatched longshore workers were nonetheless paid for their time.

Protesters then proceeded to Terminal 5, the location of the Port’s only other ship that day, chanting “Whose Ports / Our Ports.” Approximately one hundred protesters formed a human barricade and moving picket line at the terminal gate, while another hundred stood by in support.

Some protesters who remained at Terminal 18 were herded onto the sidewalk. When they tried to maintain the blockade, conflict escalated. The police used pepper spray and flash grenades to disperse protesters, in one case forcibly pulling back the head of a protester to spray him in the face. A few protesters flung road flares and a bag of paint at the police in retaliation. In the resulting chaos, a number of protesters were arrested.

The crowd of Terminal 18 dissipated and joined Terminal 5. After two hours of picketing, the union arbitrator once again ruled in favor of protesters, calling off work at the terminal.

The Occupy Movement Strikes Back

Many of us showed up to this action having learned from the experiences we’ve had in the short months since we began assembling together. Having previous engagements with the police, we knew to protect ourselves. Legal observers and medics were interspersed through the crowd, and the majority brought bandannas and scarves to cover their noses against flash bombs and other chemical weapons utilized by the police. Some of us sported the goggles that we learned to use after pepper spray incapacitated activists during the march on Chase Bank.

Occupy Seattle’s action was one of the last in the day, following successful port shutdowns in Longview, Portland, Oakland, and other places. A hundred of our friends in Bellingham continued to break the flow of capital by protesting on the railroads, some locking themselves to the tracks in defiance. Solidarity was extended to us even from Japan, where the International Labor Solidarity Committee of Doro-Chiba made a statement of support.

We send our sincere thanks to Oakland and Portland for extending their protests in response to the police aggression in Seattle that left several of our friends with stinging eyes and ringing ears. We extend our support and love to Houston and San Diego, where the police have used similarly aggressive tactics.

Today, we stand in solidarity with the unemployed, the underemployed, the incarcerated, and the 89% of the working class who don’t belong to unions. We stand in solidarity with students protesting education cutbacks and rising debts, with low-wage workers protesting union-busting, with those facing foreclosure, and with the unemployed. We believe that a workers’ movement does not merely belong to the unionized, nor does it recognize imposed political borders. This is the building of a new movement. We rise from our roots in the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and anticolonial struggles across the world.

For ongoing updates on the West Coast Port Shut Down action:

Truck Drivers Statement:

More information on Stevedoring Services of America (SSA) and Goldman Sachs:

ILWU Guiding Principles (See in particular #4 regarding community picket lines):

Appeal from Scott Olsen to Longshore Workers:

7 Responses to PRESS RELEASE: Occupy Seattle: A New Phase for the Workers’ Movement

  • donny1020 says:

    Really, Let me ask you this then. Why did you decide to close down the section of the Port where workers have an established contract rather than the portion of the Port where the employees have no contract and no union representation?

    You were mere feet from a non-union shipping operation but made a conscious decision not to impact their operations. You say you represent all workers but who voted for you to represent them? What workers have resigned their union membership in favor of being represented by disaffected white suburban middle class youth who lack any cultural identity. Many of you are from the same community and class that routinely suppress the working class.

    Your assault on workers and their Unions are just a pattern of what has become far to familiar. A group of suburban middle and upper class children who believe workers and people of color lack the intelligence to set and execute their own programs. You believe it is only with you at the helm can workers struggles be judged with legitimacy.

    One only has too see your working groups to understand groups such as the ISO and the RCP have had a majior victory in achjiving control of the agenda that your group now promotes. I have to question why you have not acknowlaged that you are now speaking for these groups. You will never achieve critical mass without speaking to the hearts and minds of the average American working person. Niether the ISO nor the RCP represent the will of the American worker. They represent the will of boared middle and upper middle class white children who lack cultural identity.

    Let me be clear, you do not represent anyone but yourself. This is the reason you need to stop acting like spoiled children of the middle class and broaden your membership. The fact that you could barley muster 200 people yesterday shows how weak you truly are. Tactically you should be working to broaden your appeal to the working class not alienating the the portion of the working class that is organized. But then maybe not, maybe you are happy hanging out playing drums with the rest of the white dread heads and playing revolutionary.

    • John Ellis says:

      Above poster represents no one but himself, for he expresses such hostility and belligerence that 99% want nothing to do with him, for he communicates with such incomprehensive cliché logic that the laboring class laboring half is surely and intentionally left in the dark.

      For the term “worker” is corporate media brainwash to hide the fact that the entire lower half of society is the uneducated laboring class with no education beyond some high school.

      Yesterday our Occupy Seattle had but one goal, to bankrupt high finance by striking a death blow to their biggest money maker, to import corrupt goods from Asia that corrupt our economy and destroy any hope of reducing American unemployment.

      Big business unions with executives earning six figure salaries plus a fat bonus, surely they are nothing but slave drivers for High Society.

    • Bradford B. Morrison says:

      Hey, donny1020; interesting point of view. However, very exxaggerated, in my (NOT SO HUMBLE…LOL) opinion.
      Even the major media in Seattle reported that overall numbers were in the range of 500-600. So, if your opinions, donny1020, are based on FACTS, then I suggest that you GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT FIRST, before commenting further. Of course we all understand that almost anyone can comment on this website, and people have the right of free speech and are entitled to their opinions, as are you. However, unless you are just trying to OBFUSCATE the ISSUES, I suggest that you do a bit more homework.
      Also, the article plainly states, and as an occupier myself who went on the march to the PORT and observed a lot of what happened; there are MANY, MANY PEOPLE of COLOR, and PEOPLE from ALL WALKS of LIFE, both RICH, POOR, and MIDDLE CLASS, involved in the OCCUPY MOVEMENT ; both in Seattle, and WORLDWIDE!!

      Gotta Go
      Thanks for Listening
      Peace and Love
      Loudmouthn Karaoke Brad

  • John Ellis says:

    01% High Society (republican)
    10% Country Club class (republican)
    40% Educated Middle-class (democrat)
    50% Uneducated Laboring-class (non voters)

    High Society, being all blood descendents of European rich nobility, Daughters of the American Revolution being their social club you see, they have created Empire USA to be the most perfect way to hoard the maximum amount of land and wealth.

    For Republicans fight to keep 90% of wealth hoarded among the rich ruling class, and Democrats fight to stop all wealth from flowing down to the lower half of society — except enough to keep the laboring class demoralized with starvation wages.

    • OccupyMarkD says:

      John, you are correct. The Occupy movement needs to orient itself towards the needs of the most oppressed in society in order to grow. It needs clear demands that speak to the plight of the sections of the working class that have it the worst. The needs of people of color, women, and sexual “minorities” must be put on the order of the day. By carrying out this attack on the west coast ports, Occupy has sent a strong message: we will stand up to the 1% for the most oppressed in our communities. This is a powerful message that neither the Democratic nor Republican parties can claim to support. Occupy needs to look outside the traditional political structures of America in order to exercise its power.

  • John Ellis says:

    To protect excessive wealth, the rich who own these WEB pages and all the hardware and software therein, they have decided to turn up their paid actor confusion to a crescendo. All part of the grand illusion of freedom of speech in a most corrupt spider web called the WEB.

    Warning: 5

    • REPUBLIC says:

      Be advised John Ellis will slander, demonize, label, and seclude anyone expressing their freedom of speech. Don’t be fooled by this person a TRUE PAID ACTOR. It is either you agree with him or get nuetralized because others may just shed light on this paid wealthy actor.