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Occupy rally shuts down shipping port indefinitely

By Terry Collins

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 3 2011 2:40 a.m. MDT

Protesters from the Occupy Boston movement, students from area colleges, and union workers chant slogans and display placards and the American flag as they march through downtown Boston, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011. The march was held to protest the nations growing student debt burden.

Steven Senne, Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. — Occupy Wall Street protesters declared victory after thousands of demonstrators shut down one of the nation's busiest shipping ports late Wednesday, escalating a movement whose tactics had largely been limited to marches, rallies and tent encampments since it began in September.

As a voice over a bullhorn said "The night is not over, yet," protest organizers told demonstrators to head back to the downtown plaza where the Oakland movement has been based for more than a month. The Occupy encampment across the street from City Hall also was the scene of intense clashes with authorities last week.

The nearly 5-hour protest at the Port of Oakland, the nation's fifth-busiest shipping port, was intended to highlight a daylong "general strike" in the city, which prompted solidarity rallies in New York, Los Angeles and other cities across the nation.

The demonstrations in Oakland were largely peaceful and police said there were no arrests.

Police estimated that a crowd of about 3,000 had gathered at the port at the height of the demonstration around dusk. Some had marched from the city's downtown, while others had been bused to the port.

The crowd disrupted operations by overwhelming the area with people and blocking exits with chain-link fencing and illegally parked vehicles. The demonstrators also erected fences to block main streets to the port. No trucks were allowed into or out of the area.

Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said evening operations had been "effectively shut down."

And later port officials released a statement saying that maritime activity would be cancelled indefinitely, but they hoped to resume the work day Thursday.

"Our hope is that the work day can resume tomorrow and that Port workers will be allowed to get to their jobs without incident," the statement read. "Continued missed shifts represent economic hardship for maritime workers, truckers, and their families, as well as lost jobs and lost tax revenue for our region."

Hours after the rally began, the crowd began to dwindle and a voice on a bullhorn declared a victory for the movement, saying, "The port has been shut down. Let's head back to the plaza."

The Oakland protests became a rallying point for the far-flung movement last week when an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police in riot gear that included multiple volleys of tear gas, reports of "flash bang" grenades and rubber bullets.

In Philadelphia, protesters were arrested earlier Wednesday as they held a sit-in at the headquarters of cable giant Comcast. Military veterans marched in uniform in New York, angry at their dim job prospects. And parents and their kids, some in strollers, joined the Oakland rallies by forming a "children's brigade."

"There's absolutely something wrong with the system," said Jessica Medina, a single mother who attends school part time and works at an Oakland cafÉ. "We need to change that."

Oakland organizers said they targeted the port because they want to stop the "flow of capital." The port sends goods primarily to Asia, including wine as well as rice, fruits and nuts, and handles imported electronics, apparel and manufacturing equipment, mostly from Asia, as well as cars and parts from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai.

Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said its members were not being called to strike, but that they supported the protesters.

The members "are supporting the concerns raised by Occupy Oakland and the Occupy movement to speak up for the 99 percent and against the corporate greed that is wrecking America," Merrilees said.

As protesters left the area on foot some stopped to burn money, others bickered, and one burned an American flag.

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