Containers wait to be loaded at the Port of Long Beach. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Protesters from Occupy L.A. and other groups plan to form a picket line at the Port of Long Beach on Monday to try to shut down traffic at at least one shipping terminal. Similar actions are planned at ports up and down the West Coast.
The target of the Long Beach protest is SSA Marine, a shipping company. Occupy L.A. demonstrator Michael Novick said protesters chose SSA Marine because "they embody all the ills of this economic regime we live under."
Protesters say SSA Marine has engaged in unfair labor practices and pursued objectionable environmental policies. Their other complaints include the company's role as a military contractor during the Iraq war and its connection to Goldman Sachs, an investor in SSA Marine.
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The investment bank received billions of dollars of U.S. bailout money during the subprime mortgage crisis. Anger at the bailout is a central complaint among Occupy protesters, who oppose policies that they say benefit the wealthiest 1% of Americans at the expense of the other 99%.
Novick, a retired schoolteacher who marched against racial segregation and the Vietnam War in the 1960s, said the decision to target the port came in November, after Occupy protesters in Oakland shut down the port there for several hours.
Monday's action has not been endorsed by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dock workers. But Novick says he is hopeful that union arbitrators will decide to recognize the picket line and call off the workday.
The Long Beach action comes less than two weeks after the Occupy encampment outside Los Angeles City Hall was cleared by police in a highly choreographed eviction that involved some 1,400 officers and resulted in nearly 300 arrests.
Since then, protesters have continued to meet nightly and launch protests. Last week, they demonstrated at a foreclosure auction in Norwalk. On Saturday, they marched downtown, and an affiliate group called Occupy the Hood, camped outside the Los Angeles Police Department's former Rampart station to protest what they view as abuses by law enforcement.
Novick said the port is a potent target for Occupy protesters because it's emblematic of America's economic malaise. The port receives much more cargo than it ships out, Novick said, because many U.S. manufacturing jobs have been moved overseas.
In some ways, the Occupy movement can be seen as the intellectual heir to the anti-globalization protests of the late 1990s, which reached a high point with a massive protest at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle in 1999. Novick said many Occupy protesters are similarly disillusioned. They are, he said, "a new generation that has come up in the world that globalization created."
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