The Occupy movement and the labour movement have been allies, but that association has begun to fray as protesters looked to shut down Vancouver’s port – a move that would cost union members a day’s pay.
More than 60 Occupy Vancouver protesters descended upon the port Monday afternoon in an attempt to close it temporarily, saying they want to show solidarity with longshoremen in the United States who are said to be fighting union-busting activities.
Police made five arrests during the meandering protest.
The five protesters were taken into custody for breach of the peace, after refusing police entreaties to stop blocking traffic.
All five were released about 6 p.m., according to a police statement. No criminal charges have been laid.
Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said his organization still supports Occupy’s aims, but that Monday’s moves weren’t a “useful tactic.”
“Blockading the port is harmful to the people working there, and shutting down the 99 per cent wasn’t the objective of Occupy,” he said.
In October, the federation endorsed the Occupy camp that was set up on the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery. That protest disrupted businesses in the area, particularly several street food carts, which saw double-digit losses.
But Mr. Sinclair said those drops didn’t compare to the shutdown of a major port for a day. “I don’t think that we saw 3,000 people there that would be without work for a day. We didn’t see that kind of dramatic impact,” he said, adding that he was not aware of a “massive loss of business down there.”
Tom Dufresne, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, while supportive of the broader Occupy Vancouver message, also criticized the tactics.
“The very people that they’re claiming to be demonstrating in support of haven’t requested their support,” Mr. Dufresne said. “They’re hurting people like the truck drivers who come from Surrey who – if they get turned around – lose a day’s pay, they lose the money they’ve put out for fuel.
“They’ve got bills to pay and it’s been disruptive to their livelihood.”
Mr. Dufresne said that protesters are unfairly expecting truckers and longshoremen to foot the financial burden of the protest.
Dozens of trucks were waved past the port entrance as the protesters spilled on to the main road, eventually bringing traffic to a standstill. Earlier, the demonstrators had peacefully confronted more than 30 police officers at the scene.
Truckers affected by the delays called the protest a waste of time. They said that it didn’t prove anything and only took work away from port employees.
Maxim Winther, a member of Occupy Vancouver, said the response from the workers at the port was overwhelmingly positive. He said that the union leaders are in a compromised position because they have to maintain working relationship with the “1 per cent.”
Vancouver police arrested two protesters at the port.