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Occupy movement protest peaceful at Port of Tacoma

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on Dec. 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm with No Comments »
December 12, 2011 2:43 pm

About three dozen Occupy protesters brandished banners and passed out leaflets Monday on a key arterial leading to Port of Tacoma, but didn’t attempt to halt commerce at the port’s terminals.

Occupy Tacoma participants said they wanted to show solidarity with Longshore Union workers seeking a contract with a new grain terminal in Longview and with non-union truck container truck drivers asking for higher wages at Southern California ports.

Occupy protester Sarah Morken said she came to the port Monday noon to support workers’ efforts for better wages and working conditions, but not to alienate the truckers and others whose work lives would have been disrupted if Occupy tried to halt work at the port.

Not all Occupy port protests Monday were as non-confrontational as Tacoma’s. In Long Beach, Calif, police squared off with protesters who attempted to block a road leading to a terminal.

In Portland, police initially confronted some 200 protesters near a terminal entrance Monday, but stood aside and let protesters march to the terminal entrance. The port there closed two of its four terminals Monday. It told 200 workers to go home because of concerns for their health and safety.

In Longview, the site of violent demonstrations earlier this year against Export Grain Terminals, port officials shut down Monday because of safety concerns.

In Tacoma, protesters displayed slogans on the Port of Tacoma Road overpass over the Route 509 freeway. Both roads serve the port.

Those banners drew periodic honks of support from truckers headed to and from port container terminals.

Among the messages on those banners were: “Corporate Greed Sucks,” “Tax the Rich,” and “Occupy Tacoma Supports Port Workers.”

Some Occupy protesters distributed literature to truckers lined up waiting to enter port container terminals.

“We distributing information that isn’t available in the major media,” said Occupy protester Sallie Shawl. “Not everyone has access to a computer like we do to see what’s going on at some of the ports,” she said.

Occupy Tacoma resident Amy Spicer said she didn’t want to stop workers from getting to their jobs especially since neither of the companies with which Occupy has its biggest beefs, terminal operator SSA Marine and EGT, have no operations in Tacoma.

SSA Marine of Seattle is the nation’s largest terminal operator. It is partially owned by Goldman Sachs, an investment firm that a principal target of the Occupy movement.

Longshoreman Pete Adler, who joined the protesters briefly on the overpass, said he was pleased that they had opted for an informational effort.

He and other longshore workers met with Occupy Tacoma protesters weeks ago to suggest alternatives to blocking terminal entrances.

One of their suggestions was to mount a protest on the Port of Tacoma overpass, he said.

The union, which is sympathetic with many of Occupy’s objectives of spreading the wealth among a broader sweep of workers, asked the movement to let the union control any demonstrations that would impact their jobs.

“We told them it would be counterproductive to keep people away from their jobs,” he said.

Although a larger protest didn’t emerge, port and local law enforcement officials appeared to be prepared.

A half-dozen port and city patrol cars were stationed around the Tideflats Monday monitoring activities. A mobile sign at the Port of Tacoma Business Center office building warned that those not on official business there would be towed. The office is less than a block from the Route 509 bridge where the protest occurred.

“The Occupy protesters have been very transparent and straightforward here,” said Port of Tacoma spokeswoman Tara Mattina. “I think they realize that were all here trying to create more family-wage jobs.”

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