'Occupy the Ports' Protests Expected This Morning

The demonstrations target SSA Marine in the Long Beach Port because Occupy says Goldman Sachs is majority owner and protesters are aimed at the busiest port traffic of the year: the holidays.


Possible rainstorms will not deter hundreds of ``occupiers'' plan to get in the way of peak holiday shipping business this morning at one of the busiest import/export complexes in the world.

An Occupy Long Beach organizer and academic from Belmont Shore said Sunday night that the hometown group hopes to peacefully if noisily call attention to the 1% of wealth in the country having its tentacles around a Southern California economic engine. They will meet up rain or not at 5 a.m. at Harry Bridges Park and will stream live video, as they do most events, and post unpdates via tweets from the protest.

Dubbed ``Occupy the Ports," the planned demonstration is part of a wider call by the Occupy movement to shut down all West Coast seaports, but the mass protest is not supported by the union representing dockworkers, marine clerks and clerical workers, the Daily Breeze reported.

``The ports are basically Wall Street on the waterfront, so we're taking a stand against that," said Michael Novick, an organizer of the Occupy demonstration set for the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. ``If the ports were actually engaging in fair trade, then we would see a 50-50 split between imports and exports and more people would have jobs. Instead, globalization has sent jobs to China and we're importing far more than we send out overseas."

Members of the occupy movement hope port workers will see the wisdom in taking the day off. The head of the Longshoreman's union said that while he supports the Occupy movement's concerns, the union has not sanctioned an effort to stop work all along the West Coast just to accommodate them.

``We ask only that our internal process be respected and that whatever transpires not be in our name as we have not taken part in the call for that action," Robert McEllrath of the ILWU wrote in a Dec. 6 letter to union members. Demonstrators plan to gather at Harry Bridges Park in Long Beach about 5 a.m. Monday, followed an hour later by a march to the SSA Marine terminals at the Port of Long Beach.

``We're looking to maintain public safety and access to the port," Art Wong of the Port of Long Beach told the newspaper. Most of the action is expected at the Port of Long Beach, which is just as big and busy as the Los Angeles side of San Pedro Bay. Federal authorities, including the Coast Guard, will be handling security. Los Angeles Port Police Chief Ronald Boyd said he would try to balance civil rights with business.

``These rights will be balanced against the framework of a port that needs to continue working and has layers of existing local, state and federal security in place," he told the Daily Breeze.

SSA Marine will be specifically targeted by demonstrators who believe the shipping company is partly owned by the investment bank Goldman Sachs. Bob Watters is senior vice president of Seattle-based SSA Marine, which operates four terminals in Long Beach, one terminal in Los Angeles and a warehouse in Carson. He said the company's founding family still controls it, but that 49 percent is by a fund managed by Goldman. The fund is made up of pension plans in the United States and Australia, he said.

A spokesperson for the Occupy movement said protests were planned at West Coast ports to support the ILWU in its ongoing dispute with Longview, Wash.- based EGT, which is planning to open a grain terminal without using its workers. ``We must be clear that our struggle against EGT is just that -- our struggle," McEllrath told the Daily Breeze. ``Support is one thing. Organization from outside groups attempting to co-opt our struggle in order to advance a broader agenda is quite another and one that is destructive to our democratic process and jeopardizes our over two-year struggle in Longview."

An Occupy spokesperson said part of the idea is to shine a light on how immigrant truck drivers are sometimes exploited. A spokesperson for the California Trucking Association, however, said any plans to prevent truckers from getting to cargo terminals would be counter to the Occupy message. ``The hard-working men and women who haul containers in and out of our ports stand to lose a day's earnings due to a misguided attempt to hit Wall Street between the eyes," said Michael Shaw of the group.

--City News Service contributed to this report.


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