(We are looking for good photos of the port action for our next issue--if you have 'em, send 'em our way: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Seattle began its port shutdown festivities with a rally in Westlake Park, in the center of the downtown shopping district. On one side of the park, a tableau of Christmas crap--the carousel, a carnival food vendor, the big stupid tree; on the other side, a crowd of at least 400 rabble-rousers ready to rouse some rabble. The march took the streets quickly, led by a gigantic “Rise and Decolonize” banner. The march swelled to at least 700, moving down 2nd Ave towards the port. The most popular chant was probably, “Shut down the west coast/Hit 'em where it hurts the most!” The marchers seemed pretty pumped up and excited.
There were more people than expected, given that the ILWU had officially dissociated itself from the action. The other unions that have participated in previous Occupy Seattle actions were also not there. In the days leading up to the 12th, it seemed as if the Occupy movement was moving into uncharted territory, being denounced by the old, established figures in the labor movement. But the absence of these figures was a good thing—they have shown themselves to be the representatives of ideas that have grown obsolete as capitalism falls deeper into its crisis.
Along the way to terminal 18, some sneaky little ne'er-do-wells paint-bombed/spray-painted a Wells Fargo and a Bank of America. The crowd was generally supportive and nobody tried to intervene. This truly was a different sort of crowd than you'd expect at a typical union demonstration.
After about an hour's walk, we finally arrived at Terminal 18. Organizers informed everyone that there was a green zone where people could hang out if they didn't want a confrontation with the police. An unimpressive line of cops had posted up near the intersection where the demonstration intended to blockade the Terminal entrance, so a group of a few hundred moved forward. The intersection was taken with ease and soon people began to build a barricade from industrial and construction debris in the nearby lots. It was a nice-looking barricade, quite large and spanning two lanes. (Good helicopter footage of the barricade here.) There was some back-and-forth about whether or not the entire street should be blocked or only the in-going lanes. Eventually it was decided that those getting off of work should be allowed out, so some folks took it upon themselves to direct traffic out of the Terminal.
The police stood around nearby. Flares blazed and smoke-bombs sent plumes of bright orange smoke into the air. After a few hours, we got word that the arbiter had decided it was unsafe for the longshoremen to cross the lines. Success! Soon after, the police moved it to kick us off the streets, bringing in their horse-slaves and shoving everyone towards the sidewalk. A scuffle ensued, people were pepper-sprayed, the cops shot some flash-bangs at us, and some things were thrown back at them. The crowd mostly dispersed but some people stuck around on the sidewalk. There were a few arrests.
Meanwhile and afterwords, people began amassing at Terminal 5. A picket was going. There was news that a demonstrator had been hit by a car on the bridge between the two terminals (no word on their condition at this writing). Mostly people stood around in the street outside of the parking lot gate or walked the picket-line, chanting, chatting, or bopping around to Hip Hop Occupies' beat-boxing. The mood was cheery after the first success of the evening, and people weren't letting the police violence get them down. A few hours of picketing did the trick, and Terminal 5 shut down as well.
Today was interesting particularly because it represented a collective step towards more confrontational tactics. It also provides a clear message to the ILWU regarding the existence of an independent and autonomous movement that has the ability to shut down the ports. The majority of the people who consistently come out to Occupy Seattle events are not connected to the Democratic Party or the traditional/old labor movement. Most of them are also youth. The rebels are coming out of the woodwork.
Today was successful in meeting its limited goal. For this reason, it could be considered a training-run for future actions. These truly are only the first steps towards building an effective street presence. To future actions, bigger, bolder, and badder!
Text from an anarchist flyer handed out during the demonstration:
Historically, the strike has been the purview of the working class, the sector of society which is both dutifully employed and overworked, hanging by the thread of the boss’s favor. The power of the strike lay in the industrial workers’ ability to stop production dead in its tracks. But we all know that the traditional blue collar job is a rarity these days and that the US economy has lost much of its industrial production to the whims of global capitalism.
Now the working class exists most predominately as the underbelly of its former self, as the excluded class—the unemployed, underemployed, illegally employed. It no longer holds the same power as it once did to shut down the economy from the workplace. Some of our potential comrades still work in the old world of production: longshoremen, port truck workers, and others. The rest of us exist outside of that world, and indeed, some of us always have. Our workplace has become the place of precarity—we occupy the streets because we have no workplace to occupy.
We are the face of the crisis of capitalism. When we blockade the ports and staunch the flow of capital, we do it from the outside, as displaced people, no longer as workers but as those excluded from this system, as those who have no hope in the economy, no hope in capitalism.
When we shut down the port, we dream of the day we shut down the entire system with its jobs and its economy of suffering.