Port of Oakland executives are urging residents to balance exercising their right to freedom of speech with safeguarding the rights of port workers during a general strike on Wednesday to support the Occupy Wall Street movement.
International Longshore and Warehouse Union locals have voiced support for the 5 p.m. march at the port, but the union hasn’t directed members to join protestors.
“It is our privilege, indeed our right in this country, to peacefully assemble and freely express our grievances to government,” Omar Benjamin, executive director, and Pamela Calloway, president of the port commission, wrote in an open letter to the community.
At the same time, they stated, the Port of Oakland generates 73,000 jobs in the region. “From our maintenance staff to our custodial workers, our truckers, to office workers and dock workers, the port is where the 99 percent work,” the letter stated.
In the current difficult economic times in which the port was forced to reduce its work force by 40 percent and marine terminals are operating at 50 percent of capacity, it is essential that Oakland is known for its stability, safety and inclusion, the port executives stated.
Port operations are protected by multiple layers of security including the local police department and regional and federal agencies. The port has engaged with all appropriate security agencies and emphasizes the need for a “peaceful and respectful assembly and expression of free speech,” Calloway and Benjamin said.