Day of Confrontation at Port Ends Quietly

By Jonah Spangenthal-Lee December 12, 2011

A tense day of protests at the Port of Seattle ended with a whimper Monday night.

Around 2:00pm, as many as 500 protesters marched through downtown Seattle to the port, blocking traffic on city streets and at port terminals.

According to a statement from the Seattle Police Department, protesters threw flares, bags of paint, bricks, and a pointed piece of rebar at police, injuring one officer.

At one point during the afternoon protests, group members tried to barricade a road at the port, which led police to fire off several low-grade pepper spray-filled concussion devices, which sounded like a loud firework. A source tells PubliCola the devices police used are called "blast balls."

Police ultimately booked 11 people into jail for failing to disperse and assaulting officers.

As the sun went down, though, and the temperature dropped, the protest group seemed to thin out. By 7:00 pm, there were around 100 people at a lively gathering at the fenced-in entrance to terminal five. The group had apparently set up a barricade, scrawled with slogans like "occupy everything, demand nothing" and "no masters no slaves."

Group members waved signs and offered up Occupy trademark "mike check" speeches about "solidarity" and changing "the debate about wealth and equality."

During one mike check, a young man—who said he was a fourth generation longshoreman—proclaimed "We're fighting with port truckers up and down the west coast."

However, truckers who'd been stuck at the terminal waiting to offload their hauls seemed less enthused about the protests.

At about 7:30 pm, as small groups of 5-10 protesters peeled off from the main pack and left, a handful of truckers were lined up by the port gates, where they said they'd been waiting for hours.

One man in a big blue truck, who declined to give his name, said he'd been waiting for almost two hours to unload "50, 000 pounds of cholesterol—McDonald's fries!" The trucker, frustrated by his wait, said he'd lashed out at protesters earlier in the evening. "I let my mouth go into overdrive," he grumbled.

While protesters in Oakland and Longview, California forced work stoppages earlier today, there was lots of confusion amongst Occupy Seattle protesters about the end result of today's local demonstration.

A man named Jason, sporting long dreads and a brown hoodie and protest sign, told PubliCola he'd been told that port workers had been sent home without pay, something he said "doesn't really jibe too well" with Occupy Seattle's mission.

However, he called the protests a "success," calling unpaid workers "a casualty of war." However, he noted, "I wouldn't want to be sent home without pay. It's not a victory for those people we're screwing out of money."

While protesters seemed to believe workers had been sent home, and truckers were clearly prevented from offloading at the port, Port of Seattle spokesman Peter McGraw claimed "there was minimal impact to cargo movement today." McGraw said workers at the terminals were "done for the day" by 4 pm—about an hour after protesters arrived—because there was no evening shipment for port workers to unload.

McGraw was unable to clarify whether port workers had ultimately been sent home without pay, and dockworker union officials were unreachable for comment.

Around 9 pm, there were still around 100 protesters hanging around the terminal gates when police began massing in a nearby parking lot. Black vans, patrol cars, and a small bus filled with bike patrol officers circled the port parking lot before pulling up several hundred yards from the protesters.

As a swarm of two dozen black-clad bike cops suddenly began winding their way towards the protesters, the Occupiers decided to leave.

When asked about the mass exodus, group members defensively claimed they "had to go home" or "were leaving anyways."

Eventually, one woman matter-of-factly said "we're done. It's not worth getting arrested over," as a group of about a hundred protesters marched off away from the port.
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