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Occupy Oakland Ports: Longshoremen Sent Home Due To Protests (PHOTOS)

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By TERRY COLLINS, Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Most longshoremen at the Port of Oakland were sent home Monday after Wall Street demonstrators blocked entrances as part of a coordinated West Coast port blockade effort.

Shipping companies agreed with workers' concerns that the protests were creating unsafe working conditions and released about 150 out of about 200 workers on the morning shift, said Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Workers in unaffected parts of the port remained on the job.

Several hundred people began picketing at the Port of Oakland before dawn and blocked at least two entrances. A long line of big rigs sat outside the gates, unable to drive into the port.

Police in riot gear monitored the scene as protesters marched in an oval and carried signs with messages such as "Labor and Occupy Unite," an invitation to the powerful dockworkers union join their push against corporate greed.

No major clashes with police or arrests were reported.

Longshoremen arriving for the morning shift at the two affected port terminals did not try to enter due to what union officials said were safety concerns. Some longshoremen said they weren't willing to cross the demonstrators' picket lines.

Protesters cheered and declared victory when they learned about the partial shutdown, then dispersed. Another march on the port is planned later in the day.

Port spokesman Isaac Kos-Read said the facility remains open.

"There's been disruptions throughout the morning shift. We've done our best to minimize those disruptions," Kos-Read said. "We've kept the port largely operational."

It's unclear whether the longshoremen will be paid for the missed work. Union officials say longshoremen were not paid after Occupy Oakland protesters blockaded the port Nov. 2.

DeAndre Whitten, 48, an Oakland longshoreman for 12 years, said it was his understanding he would be losing about $500 in pay for the day. But he said he supported the protest effort.

"I'm excited. It was way overdue. I hope they keep it up," Whitten said. "I have no problem with it. But my wife wasn't happy about it."

Leaders of the ILWU, which represents thousands of longshoremen, spoke out in recent weeks against the coordinated effort by Occupy protesters to blockade ports from Anchorage to San Diego.

In Southern California, as many as 400 demonstrators gathered in a park then marched in heavy rain to the Port of Long Beach.

Before most dispersed about 9 a.m., they targeted a dock facility leased by SSA Marine, a shipping company partially owned by giant investment firm Goldman Sachs.

Beating drums and waving flags, dozens of protesters, gathered outside a fenced area at the port, part of a sprawling complex that spans parts of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Police repeatedly warned that they faced arrest if they crossed the fenced area. Officers later started pushing the protesters further back. They spilled into the street, blocking access to the pier and holding up truck traffic. At least one person was taken into custody.

Protesters mostly remained in a parking lot so there were no major disruptions to operations, port spokesman John Pope said.
In Ventura County, about 150 protesters picketed outside the entrance to the Port of Hueneme. No arrests were reported.

In Oakland, the protests halted truck traffic at least two gates. Truck drivers, union and port officials and Oakland politicians have said the protests will hurt the incomes of people who have little connection to Wall Street.

"This is joke. What are they protesting?" Christian Vega, 32, who sat in his truck carrying a load of recycled paper from Pittsburg said Monday morning. He said the delay was costing him $600.

"It only hurts me and the other drivers. We have jobs and families to support and feed. Most of them don't," Vega said.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan also urged protesters to consider the impact on port workers.

"Thousands of people work at the Port of Oakland every day. Thousands more in agriculture and other industries also depend on the Port of Oakland for their daily wages," Quan said.

Oakland protester Alex Schmaus, 26, said he believed the attempted shutdown was for the greater good of workers.
"We're trying to make things better for them," Schmaus said.

In San Diego, a few dozen protesters converged on the port as part of the blockade effort. Police spokesman Gary Hassen says four people were arrested, most for failure to disperse or refusal to comply with police orders but one for an unspecified traffic violation. He says there's been no violence.

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Associated Press writers Robert Jablon and Christina Hoag in Los Angeles and Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco contributed to this story.

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