Last Wednesday Port Truckers Changed the Expectations of Noise Demos in Oakland Forever
Wednesday, November 13, 2013– After a brief conference on the steps of City Hall, Port of Oakland Truckers Association (POTA) board members entered into a meeting with Mayor Jean Quan, Deputy Mayor Sandre Swanson, Port of Oakland Executive Director Chris Lytle, California Air Resource Board member Cynthia Martin, and representatives from Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
Outside, a group of about 35 activists and community members rallied loudly to support them inside. Even this small group was loud enough to disrupt the meeting. Reportedly, Mayor Quan requested the POTA board members persuade the demonstrators to be quiet.
“That’s the community out there supporting us, I can’t tell them what to do. They are just here to make sure everyone in this room knows we have their support,” said Frank Adams, POTA board member.
According to truckers inside the meeting, Mayor Quan said that she would have the demonstrators cleared by police if they did not pipe down, however after 15 minutes, a loud droning sound could be heard in the distance.
An activist spoke over the noisy crowd on a bullhorn, “Everybody stop for a second. Listen, can you hear that hum? That’s the truckers. They’re coming.”
Within minutes big rigs with hand painted signs were lining up and down 14th Street in front of City Hall. Over 70 in all, they wrapped around the block, honking their air horns and waving to activists and passersby alike. For over an hour, they circled the block, until two trucks were pulled over by police. Officers attempted to cite the truckers and placed one under arrest, but the demonstrators and many bystanders swarmed around the police chanting, “Trash the ticket!” and “Let them go!” Police called for backup and a 15 year old trucker’s daughter took the mic. “My dad is on these lines! Are you going to arrest my dad? Are you going to take his job? Both my parents work full time and can’t make a living wage. They’re trying to make a better life for me!” One officer was driven to tears by the courage of this young woman. (video below)
Eventually, the police tore up the tickets and sent the two truckers on their way, with the crowd cheering behind them. Demonstrators returned to Oscar Grant Plaza to continue cheering on the truckers, who made one final round. The trucker who was threatened with arrest made one last pass by the crowd, honking wildly and gesturing his thanks for their support, before returning to work at the Port of Oakland.
People in Chinatown and as far away as 34th Street reported hearing the truck convoy, which drew dozens of bystanders who gathered, cheering the truckers and asking demonstrators for information on their struggle.
One demonstrator, who had not previously been to an action with the port truckers said, “Now I understand why people find these truckers so inspiring!” Another said, “I think my expectations of noise demos have changed forever.”