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Protesters halt operations at some Western ports

By Terry Collins

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 13 2011 7:36 a.m. MST

OAKLAND, Calif. — Heady with their successful attempts to block trucks and curb business at busy ports up and down the West Coast, some Occupy Wall Street protesters plan to continue their blockades and keep staging similar protests despite requests to stop because they're hurting wage earners.

Thousands of demonstrators forced shipping terminals in Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Longview, Wash., to halt parts of their operations Monday.

At least one outside observer who has followed political movements for decades said the port blockades were an indicator of the disruptive activities likely to continue for months and right until next year's presidential elections.

The movement, which sprang up this fall against what it sees as corporate greed and economic inequality, focused on the ports as the "economic engines for the elite." It comes weeks after police raids cleared out most of their tent camps.

Protesters are most upset by two West Coast companies: port operator SSA Marine and grain exporter EGT. Investment banking giant Goldman Sachs Group Inc. owns a major stake in SSA Marine and has been a frequent target of protesters.

Demonstrators say they are standing up for workers against the port companies, which have had recent high-profile clashes with union workers. Longshoremen in Longview, for example, have had a longstanding dispute with EGT, which employs workers from a different union to staff its terminal. The longshoremen's union says the jobs rightfully belong to them.

In Oakland, some 1,000 protesters vowed to at the port overnight, but the crowd had shrunk to around 150 by 9:30 p.m. Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday.

While the protests attracted far fewer people than the 10,000 who turned out Nov. 2 to shut down Oakland's port, organizers declared victory and promised more demonstrations.

"Mission accomplished," said protest organizer Boots Riley.

Mike King, another Occupy Oakland organizer, said demonstrators had voted to remain at the port until at least 3 a.m. Tuesday to block any sudden shifts of longshoremen to offload the three ships that were neglected Monday.

KGO-TV reported that the 3 a.m. shift was canceled because of the demonstrators, who at least later in the morning, were no longer at the port.

Two people were arrested in Oakland during morning protests for impeding traffic after ignoring orders to clear a gate, said interim Police Chief Howard Jordan.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan pleaded with the occupiers to go home and allow the longshoremen and truckers get on with their livelihoods.

"People have to think about the consequences," she said. "People have to think about who they are hurting. They are saying, 'We want to get the attention of the ruling class.' Well, I think the ruling class is probably laughing, and people in this city will be crying this Christmas. It's really got to stop."

Police in Seattle used "flash-bang" percussion grenades to disperse protesters who blocked an entrance to a Port of Seattle and 11 demonstrators were arrested.

Officers moved in Monday evening after Occupy Seattle protesters tried to set up a makeshift barrier near the entrances to two terminals, using scraps of wood and aluminum debris.

Police Detective Jeff Kappel said demonstrators blocked traffic and hurled flares, bags of paint and other debris at officers and police horses. He said one officer was treated by medics after a bag of paint hit his face.

In Portland, a couple hundred protesters blocked semitrailers from making deliveries at two major terminals.

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