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Bike Swarm will help lead Monday’s Occupy Seattle Port Shutdown

Image from PDX Bike Swarm

Bikes will play a new role in Monday’s Occupy Seattle Port Shutdown: Seattle Bike Swarm.

From the Facebook event:

Meet at Westlake Plaza December 12th, 2011 1 PM

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This is a call for every bike enthusiast, bike owner and bike rider to meet at Westlake Plaza at 1 PM on December 12th. From there, a march to shutdown the Port of Seattle will start. It will be extremely useful to have as many bikes as possible leading the march and being able to scout ahead. Please, spread this invitation widely to all of your friends.

In Portland, the Bike Swarm is something of combination of autonomous bike ride tactics (like Critical Mass) and Occupy Wall Street organizing and protesting tactics (like the People’s Microphone).

The PDX Bike Swarm was first used November 13 to support Occupy Portland protesters threatened with a late night eviction from Chapman and Lownsdale Squares. It proved a useful tactic as scores of people on bikes rode legally, circling the parks and adding an element that made the planned police actions even more difficult. At one poignant moment (captured near the end of the video posted below), the protesters were in the parks and only the police were in the roadway, blocking the bicycle riders from using the street (again, their legal right as vehicles). People on foot and on bike started chanting, “Who’s blocking traffic now?” and the police eventually stepped aside and the showdown ended.

Since then, the Bike Swarm has been evolving into a movement of its own, Bike Portland reports. They held a city-wide “Swarm the Banks” ride and are also planning to “Swarm the Port” Monday as part of the west coast port shutdown action.

Portland’s Bike Swarm started an interesting conversation about whether the action “politicizes” bicycling. Some say it reinforces stereotypes of bicyclists being scofflaws, etc. But given that the bicycle is a very powerful tool, why not also use it to protest? The Seattle Police use bikes in protests all the time.

A person on a bicycle could have a few important advantages in a protest. Unlike marching, it is legal to bike in the street. They can move more quickly and can see further (especially on a tall bike, Jonathan at Bike Portland points out).

Using bikes in protests is, of course, nothing new. In fact, Portland’s Bike Swarm was influenced by actions like the Bike Bloc at the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference, according to Tree Hugger.

Here’s video from November 13 in Portland:

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24 responses to “Bike Swarm will help lead Monday’s Occupy Seattle Port Shutdown”

  1. non

    Suppose it doesn’t matter that local 19 doesn’t support this, and voted on it.

    1. Robin

      ‎”There are some misconceptions about whether ILWU supports The December 12th West Coast Port Shutdown.

      ILWU national leadership released a statement saying they “don’t endorse” the December 12th Shutdown.

      This is exactly how it was done on November 2nd as well. They participated in and supported it just as much then as they do now.

      Here’s how it works:
      We block the gates to the docks, the arbitrator comes and declares it unsafe for the longshoremen to go to work, and the longshoremen then go home- with pay.

      ILWU has to officially say that they don’t “endorse” the shutdown, this is the only way that they will be able to claim that the blockade is a safety hazard for longshoremen.

      If they endorsed it, there would be no safety hazard. How could there be a safety hazard from an action that they endorse? It would be a “strike”, no pay for longshoremen that day, and ILWU would be liable for a lawsuit in the millions.

      Do not believe the rumor that this means the longshoremen rank-and-file, and the President of the locals don’t individually support us. They do. ILWU just can’t officially do it as an organization.

      This action is in support of Longshoremen in Longview, WA who are militantly fighting union-busting activities by the grain company EGT. The actions of the rank-and-file there are not officially endorsed by ILWU either. These are technicalities for legal reasons, not a measure of support in this case.

      Here’s what ILWU Local 21 President Dan Coffman said to Occupy Oakland last week at a public rally: “You can’t believe what you people have done for my people!”

      ILWU Local 10 Executive Board member Clarence Thomas said publicly: “These Ports are public. People have a right to come to the Port and protest. The ILWU has historically honored picket lines at the Port.”

      The ILWU has always honored community pickets. They understand solidarity. This is all part of how it works.

      They supported the November 2nd shutdown under the exact same circumstances. The longshoremen support this one too.

      Please let folks know about this. The details of this action have caused some confusion among people that need to be clear about their support.

      –Boots Riley”

      An email forwarded from Occupy Oakland.

      1. Gary

        Ah I think at the Port of Seattle the truckers get paid by the load, same for the guys running the cranes. So if OWS shuts down the port for a few hours, they don’t get paid, they just sit around waiting for it to be all over, then get back on with it. Those containers of freight aren’t going to stay on those ships until they reach the next port.

  2. Jim

    I don’t see shutting down commerce in this fashion as useful, in fact the opposite, and I’m talking mostly about the effect on the supposed 99%. A a cyclist, I don’t want to be associated with this kind of action, but everyone has their viewpoint, and I’m not trying to stop any legal protest.

  3. raincity

    The area where the protest is slated to take place (the fishing area park) won’t shut down the port, but it will possibly shut down a main connection into West Seattle likely being used by the 99% trying to get home in cars, buses and bicycles. http://westseattleblog.com/2011/12/demonstrations-planned-near-the-low-bridge-on-monday

  4. Ordinary Bob

    I agree with Jim. This is bad for bicycling in general. If these people are actually representing the 99%, why don’t they try voting instead of whining?

  5. Dave L

    I don’t support this for the same reason I don’t support Critical Mass. Inconveniencing and annoying people is no way to get your point across.

  6. Recbike

    I really hope the cyclist do not support this. Anytime there is monetary system there will always be poor and rich and everyone else in between. If you want to take the monetary system out then your stepping into communism. It didn’t work out to well for Russia and other communist countries.

  7. laurel

    I don’t think the problem is the monetary system, but rather the corruption behind it, that has been destroying not only human and animal lives, but trees, air, drinking water , oceans, mountains, and well, just basically the entire planet. I will be carpooling home about 3;30PM tomorrow from Burien and may very likely get stuck in traffic. If this happens, I hope rather than becoming frustrated I will remain clearheaded enough to honk in support. In my humble opinion the corruption of the upper one percent is to a great extent the fault of us 99ers, who have been so wrapped up in our own personal individual lives, living in our separate homes, driving in our separate cars, we have not even taken the time to simply stop for a rare brief moment to think about the horrors that have been going on all around us… let alone unite in some way to stop it. It is unsettling to many of us when we are suddenly confronted by a situation which asks we look further than ourselves. PEACE……

  8. The message I’m taking from the port (and 23rd avenue) “occupy” and others is this:

    Banks are too big to occupy. Go for anything else!

    The banks sold products intended to fail. When they failed, the banks got bailed out while the bank customers that bought the defective products are left to pay the cost.

    That’s my opinion why OWS is off message, even when they have the most compelling message of our time.

    The message for bicyclists is just as selfish. Swarming is not driving and it is irresponsible. Let’s get bicycling back on message: take personal responsibility for your behavior, learn to drive well and join the bicyclists that have a proven track record of better mobility and safety than motorists.

  9. Gary

    I don’t get this shutdown. The port workers union isn’t supporting it, so why should bicyclists and OWS get involved now?


    As for the monetary system not being the problem, how wrong you are. You should take some time and watch the Bill Still documentary “the secret of Oz” to understand the fundamentals of our monetary system. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qIhDdST27g It’s not communism to say, that it’s worth changing who controls the money supply. Us or the bankers.

    1. Robin

      The port workers’ union can’t legally support this action because it could be interpreted as a strike, which would make the union liable for any losses claimed by owners of goods. However, if the conditions are too unsafe for port workers to actually go to work, that’s a different story.

  10. Don

    This is going to make my bike commute to/from West Seattle more dangerous from now on, by antagonizing and taking a day’s pay from the freight container haulers who depend on this road. None of them will be going home paid by anybody. I depend on their courtesy and respect. They will view the “bike swarm” and me and fellow bike commuters as one and the same.
    This is elistist college kid action, nothing to do with labor rights or unionization or effective action against the 1%. I would like to ask people to engage in dialog and develop real strategies that work with labor, not against it.

    1. RTK

      greed about often enjoying the good graces of the truckers as I ride across the port entrance. The majority of the drivers at the trail crossing are more likely to yield than the general motorists at other trail crossings. I rode through the protest on my way home today, probably about 3:45 PM when I went through. Traffic backed up horribly, the bike swarm was not evident to me. Just a few folks with bikes, no more than you’d expect at any gathering of this sort. So fortunately, I can’t believe anybody would specifically view cyclist as the cause of the back up.

      1. RTK

        That should start, “Agreed” not “greed”. Yeah, no pun intended.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        From what I can tell, the bike swarm didn’t really materialize much. Would love to hear details from anyone who was/is there.

  11. Steve

    I don’t get this and don’t support it. Don’t drag my bike into it, I have enough problems the way it is already.

  12. Goretex Guy

    Just like Critical Mass: it’s counterproductive, it makes some cyclists feel good for “sticking it to The Man” while achieving nothing positive and much negative, it pisses off most folks behind the wheel and in society, it gives all cyclists a black eye. Free Speech can still be stupid speech.

  13. BJ Bikes

    Well I commute by bicycle frequently over the low bridge and I feel like I generally experience polite and thoughtful behavior on the part of the truck drivers down there. I fear for what to expect after today. WTF does all this have to do with bicycling anyway? Can I join a bicycle swarm in support of the low paid drayage drivers down there? The gates to the port are not where the battle is by the longest of shots. The battle is on unregulated banking and financial maneuvering, not capitalism. When the hippies started declaring this to be a war on capitalism, everyone stopped listening.

    1. Gary

      “hippies started declaring this to be a war on capitalism”.. where do you get your news dude? Fox?

      From those who were there.

      Here’s more on today’s protest.

      1. BJ Bikes

        Hey, I agree with the original premise behind OWS. But what I now see in images from around the country on a wide variety of media are off message in my opinion. The Seattle Times gallery from yesterday shows protesters tagging some walls with an Anarchy sign. Other signs I have seen, including in yesterday’s gallery decry capitalism in general. This represents tremendous divergence from the outcry to hold Wall Street and the financial sector accountable. I think painting anarchy signs and vaguely calling for an end to capitalism drags this movement into the murk, and consequently, people will stop listening.

  14. Jim

    This blog is great, and I really appreciate the rationale comments that mostly appear here. I really enjoy the positive things that cyclists here are for. Thanks, Tom, for hosting it.

  15. […] This is the first organized Seattle Bike Swarm action since December’s Port Shutdown. […]

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