Police in Seattle arrested more than a dozen Occupy protesters Monday night after marchers briefly blocked traffic coming into the city's busy port. The Seattle protest was the culmination of a day of coordinated protests at ports up and down the West Coast.
Soon after hundreds of Occupy protesters marched to Seattle's Harbor Island, some of them started dragging wooden pallets and scrap metal into the roadway, and traffic in and out of the port came to a halt. The protesters were trying to shut down Terminal 18.
Occupy protesters gave a variety of reasons for targeting West Coast ports. Some called them a "pressure point" of capitalism — a place where they might inflict a little pain on global corporations. Others say they're trying to help workers at the ports — especially independent contractor truck drivers.
Some of the truckers caught in traffic jam honked their approval but others, not so much.
"I'm stuck a quarter mile back here, in this mess," says trucker Kenneth Mims, who left his truck to come see the Occupy barricade for himself.
"I get the idea, great idea, but your execution sucks — all you've done is irritate guys like me," Mims adds.
But down the coast in California, at the Port of Long Beach, some had a more appreciative take.
"I believe in what they are talking about," says Seth Williams, a carpenter. "Equal rights for everybody to be able to work, not just everybody else get rich, and everybody else get poor."
Unionized workers like Williams have been generally sympathetic to the protests, on a personal basis but union leadership has kept its distance.
"Everyone's in a bit of a funny situation," says Craig Merilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
"Both the protesters and most of the ILWU members see eye to eye on the problem of the 99 percent," Merilees adds. "They agree that corporate greed is wrecking America and that growing inequality is intolerable and destructive of our country."
But since the rank and file never voted to support this particular protest, he says, neither can the union leadership. And ultimately, that limited what Occupy could achieve.
With considerable effort, the protesters briefly blocked or slowed business at the ports of Oakland, Portland and Seattle but shutting the ports down altogether would have required the aid of the unions on the inside.
At the port of Seattle, Occupy protesters got the media attention they were looking for. As cameras rolled, Seattle police moved in on the barricade.
Some police were on horses; others lifted up their bikes, using them as a kind of people-plow to push protesters out of the street. Pepper-spray-laced flash grenades finished the job. And in less than 10 minutes, the trucks were once again rolling into Terminal 18.
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