(Updates with port closure in first paragraph.)
Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Police in riot gear fired tear gas and other projectiles and arrested several people after Occupy Oakland protesters closed the city’s port.
“Operations are effectively shut down in the maritime area of the Port of Oakland,” according to a port statement issued yesterday. “Operations will resume when it is safe and secure to do so.”
The clash followed a day of peaceful protest that attracted 7,000 protesters. That group assembled in downtown then marched to close down the port, the nation’s fifth busiest. Later, police in riot gear arrested dozens of protesters who broke into a vacant building, shattered windows, sprayed graffiti and set fires, the Associated Press reported.
Occupy Oakland is an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York in September and has spread around the globe. The protesters are trying to call attention to nation’s increasing wealth gap and persistent unemployment. Oakland has become a hotbed for the protest after an Iraq war veteran was seriously injured last week as police faced off with protesters.
Occupy Oakland had called for a general strike. The demonstrations prompted hundreds of downtown workers to stay home or leave their jobs early.
Protesters declared victory at the port yesterday when authorities confirmed that a 7 p.m. work shift would be canceled, the Los Angeles Times reported. The demonstrators then built a barricade outside a downtown building housing the Traveler’s Aid Society, a nonprofit organization that aids the homeless, the newspaper reported. The protesters lit the barricade on fire, which firefighters extinguished.
At least four protesters were hospitalized today with injuries, including one needing stitches after fighting with an officer, AP reported. Several officers were also injured but didn’t need hospitalization.
“We go from having a peaceful movement to now just chaos,” protester Monique Agnew, 40, told the wire service today.
Protesters also threw concrete chunks, metal pipes, lit roman candles and Molotov cocktails, police said, according to AP.
The port’s eight terminals last year moved goods that would fill 2.33 million containers each 20 feet by eight feet, according to an analysis by Citigroup Inc.
The port took in 4.4 percent of all imports into the country, according to John Husing, a vice president at Economics and Politics Inc., a Redlands, California, consulting company.
“Containers can easily be shifted to other West Coast ports,” Husing said in a telephone interview. “All of them are huge operations.”
“If the duration of the port’s closure remains limited as expected, we expect very little impact to inland volume flows,” Citigroup said in a statement.
Yesterday, as the crowd in the downtown Frank Ogawa Plaza assembled, it blocked traffic in all directions and forced the rerouting of buses, according to a media advisory from the city.
About 300 of the city’s 2,000 teachers asked for yesterday off or called in sick, according to Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District. Schools summoned substitutes, drew workers from other departments and in a small number of cases consolidated classes to make up for the missing teachers.
Maria Lepe, 26, an algebra teacher at an Oakland middle school who lives in San Francisco, said she was demonstrating for “more support for teachers” and smaller class sizes.
“I did not expect thousands and thousands of people,” Lepe said in an interview. “The crowd keeps growing. I’m glad the word has gotten out. We’re all in this together to get our voice out.”
Susan George, 56, a holistic health practitioner who lives in West Oakland, carried a sign that read, “The people are too big to fail.”
“Our politicians have sold out to Wall Street interests,” she said.
With assistance from Natalie Doss in New York.
--With assistance from Natalie Doss in New York. Editors: Stephen Merelman, Mark Schoifet
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