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‘Occupy Oakland’ to march on port

Image courtesy of Port of Oakland

   Officials at the Port of Oakland said the “Occupy Oakland” movement, which has been forcibly evicted by police from a downtown square in the past week, is planning a march to the Port of Oakland at 5 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and urged people to protest peacefully.
   “Occupy Oakland” is an outgrowth of “Occupy Wall Street,” which doesn’t have specific demands but is aimed at redressing the perception that banks and other institutions of capitalism are taking advantage of the system at the expense of ordinary Americans who can’t make decent wages.
   “It is our privilege, indeed our right in this country, to peacefully assemble and freely express our grievances to government. And it is our responsibility as Oaklanders to ensure that our city is a safe and peaceful place to live and work. Oakland has a long, honorable, and innovative tradition of social justice action. So it is understandable that the citizens of Oakland want to show solidarity with the worldwide movement for economic and social justice. It is also imperative that any and all expressions of protest be effective without being violent. Every individual on all sides of this event must take personal responsibility to ensure peace. Each one of us at the port is committed to a peaceful and safe march for all involved,” Port Authority President Pamela Calloway and Executive Director Omar Benjamin said in an open letter to the public.
    “As you may be aware, there are multiple layers of security governing our nation’s ports, involving our local police department, regional, and federal agencies. Since becoming aware of the proposed march to the port, we have been engaged with our public safety and security partners at the local, regional, state, and federal levels of government. We are all emphasizing the need for a peaceful and respectful assembly and expression of free speech,” the letter said.
“We at the Port of Oakland understand the frustrations and issues at the heart of the Occupy movement:

  • We have over $1.4 billion in debt and annual debt service payments of over $100 million a year for the foreseeable future, constraining the jobs we can create and investments we can make.
  • Economic conditions at the port have forced us to reduce our workforce by 40 percent over the last seven years.
  • Air passenger volume is down over 30 percent since 2008.
  • We are operating at just over 50 percent capacity at our seaport, while there is increasing competition from alternative shipping gateways around the country and the world.

   “Despite these challenges, port activity generates over 73,000 jobs in the region, and every day we work to create more jobs. From our maintenance staff, to our custodial workers, our truckers, to office workers and dock workers, the port is where the 99 percent work. It is essential for the economic development of the city and region that the perception and reality of Oakland is stability, safety, and inclusion.
   “Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We hope it will contribute to the civic dialogue that the Occupy movement has initiated,” Calloway and Benjamin wrote.

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