OAKLAND, Calif. – Thousands of Occupy Wall Street protesters escalated their tactics beyond marches, rallies and tent camps Wednesday and moved to disrupt the flow of goods at the nation’s fifth-busiest port.
Protesters were arrested as they held a sit-in at the headquarters of cable giant Comcast in Philadelphia. Military veterans marched in uniform in New York, angry at their dim job prospects. And parents and their kids, some in strollers, formed a “children’s brigade” to join the Oakland, Calif., rallies.
“There’s absolutely something wrong with the system,” said Jessica Medina, a single mother who attends school part time and works at an Oakland caf. “We need to change that.”
In Los Angeles, New York and other cities, demonstrators planned their own rallies in solidarity with the Oakland protesters, who called for Wednesday’s “general strike” after the city became a rallying point last week when an Iraq War veteran was injured in clashes with police.
Protesters, city officials and business leaders were optimistic the strike would be peaceful. There was little to no visible police presence all day. At a briefing, officials described the protests as peaceful and orderly and said no arrests had been made.
Potentially minimizing any significant disruptions at the port, leaders of the longshoremen’s union said they could not call for members to join the protests under their contract with the port.
Organizers say they want to stop the “flow of capital.” The port sends goods primarily to Asia, including wine as well as rice, fruits and nuts, and handles imported electronics, apparel and manufacturing equipment, mostly from Asia, as well as cars and parts from Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai.
On Wednesday morning, the port was operating as normal and most longshoremen had shown up for work, according to port and union officials.
Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said its members were not being called to strike, but that they supported the protesters.