The Occupy movement has recently moved into a new phase, and I have been watching to see what comes out of it.
Although I have approved of many of the actions and goal of the movement I’m ambivalent about yesterday’s move to close down West Coast ports.
The OWS to this point has raised awareness and changed the debate in this country from “how much should we cut from poor people?” to “how much should we tax the rich”. It’s a move in the right direction. Finally, someone with the courage to tell the emperor he has no clothes!
Yes, there are fringe elements of OWS that I truly despise (as there is with almost every truly grassroots protest movement).
But worse than the OWS fringe are the folks who oppose the movement by pretending not to understand why they are there or craft a strawman version of OWS that is an anti-capitalist movement bent on installing socialism in America.
I’m not familiar with that movement and would be no part of it.
That said, closing the ports may not be the best way to “put it to the man”.
Andrew Leonard at Salon.com apparently agrees:
The problem however, with attempting to target the 1 percent with a port shutdown is that the 1 percent are the best situated to ride out any extended shutdown. There’s no way to avoid it. Shutting down “Wall Street on the Waterfront” would have some serious collateral damage. The immediate impact of any port stoppage would be felt by the workers who transport the goods from ports to their final destinations, the retail outlets where those goods are sold, the workers at those outlets, and of course, anyone involved directly in the export trade. California, a state that still sports an unemployment rate above 11 percent would be particularly devastated by a port shutdown that lasted any meaningful amount of time. Goldman Sachs would hardly notice.
Laura Conaway at the Maddow Blog also reports that the move has bought bad press:
Judging from the local paper in Portland, Oregon, I’d say the Occupy movement lost a PR round yesterday. The Oregonian reports that Occupiers made a “target” of a relatively small family-owned company when it jammed the Port of Portland. One trucker told the paper, “Everybody’s got their right to protest — I just won’t get paid if I can’t pick up the load. I’m just a guy trying to make a living.”
You could kind of see this coming. The local alt-weekly, the mighty Willamette Week, previewed the occupation with this from the Longshore and Warehouse local.
“If I wanted to shut down the port, I could do it without Occupy. I don’t need ’em,” says Jeff Smith, president of ILWU‘s Columbia River District Council. “This is a question for the Occupy movement: Why would I want to send my people home? Why would I take a job away from somebody?
“I don’t get what they’re thinking. It’s my job to put people to work. I’ve got jobs for ’em, so I’m going to put ’em to work. And I’m going to take some of Wall Street’s money.”
I understand the point of the attempted shutdown, but I think the Occupy movement should focus their energies on crafting policy proposals and occupation of foreclosed homes.
In order to gain wider acceptance, protesters need to concentrate on actions that help rebuild and stabilize the economy, and bring attention to and rail against the injustices that have been part of the system for far too long.
- Longview port shuts down after Occupy protest (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Occupy protesters block West Coast ports (latimes.com)
- Occupy aims to shut down West Coast ports – live coverage (guardian.co.uk)
- Occupy Portland protesters block work at three Port of Portland terminals (oregonlive.com)
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