Occupy San Diego protesters are on the move, slowing down traffic at the Port of San Diego today. Is the group gaining momentum? We take a look.
December 12, 2011 1:12 p.m.
Katie Orr, KPBS Metro Reporter
Miro Copic, Marketing professor, SDSU School of Business
Dave Lagstein, Director, San Diego office of ACE
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Some arrests and some slowdowns today at the Port of San Diego. This is KPBS Midday Edition. 99% activists in San Diego have joined other West Coast port protests aimed against global trade. We will hear how the occupy movement is morphing and influencing other protests. After several years of empty hotels and beaches Baja California steps up its efforts to attract tourists and we will hear from celebrated Mexican poet Alberto Blanco. He is in San Diego to promote his new book of poems called Afterglow. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. KPBS Midday Edition is next. First the news. Occupy San Diego protesters block traffic in San Diego and Mexican tourist officials convinced tourists that Baja is a great and safe place to visit. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Monday, December 12. Our top story in San Diego today, some arrests were made of occupy San Diego protesters at the Port of San Diego. The aim of the West Coast port protest is still not crystal clear and that is a continuing criticism of the occupy movement. Even so the evolving focus of the moment is bringing more groups into the loosely knit occupy fold. Joining me to talk about today's action and the movement in general are my guests KPBS Metro reporter Katie Orr. Hi, Katie.
KATIE ORR: Hi, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Miro Copic is marketing professor at San Diego State University school of business. Prof. Copic, thanks for coming in.
MIRO COPIC: Thank you, Maureen.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And Dave Lagstein, director of the San Diego office of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. Dave, thank you for coming to the show.
DAVE LAGSTEIN: Thank you for having me here
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And if our listeners would like to join the conversation we invite you to join us at 888-895-5727. Katie let's start with you. You were out in the rain this morning you are covering that March at the Port of San Diego. Just about how many people were there and what happened?
KATIE ORR: The numbers really great estimated from just about rough count there were probably about 70 people there. They started at Chicano Park at about 6:30 and marched through barrio Logan to the port's 10th Ave., Marine terminal where they started marching around in a circle into not allowing cars to get into the terminal through that entrance. And eventually they split and some people stayed there and other people went to an entrance near Harbor Drive effectively blocking the entrance as well.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There were some arrests, right? Why were people arrested
KATIE ORR: They were arrested for not getting out of the way of the trucks. When I was there with a videographer (Nick McVicar) the police are largely living protesters do their thing and the protesters were pretty peaceful just marching - article circle and the chanting and they would let certain persons are at one point they let some car containing some Coast Guard members through but if it was you know any other workers they were not letting that are sturdy would physically stand in the middle of the road which the port said it was okay with that when it came time to start unloading the trucks I'm sorry, the ships, there were two ships importing things and they had to get those loads out of the terminal and distribute it to wherever they were going and they said that is one they would you know became of the people if people were not moved. I was not there when those people were arrested. The port told me that five people were arrested so I can't say exactly why whether or not it was because of the trucks but they were arrested for blocking the street.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: So would you say the protest did disrupt activity at the port this morning?
KATIE ORR: I think if you or somebody trying to get to work at the terminal you would say yes. They knew it was coming, they told workers to maybe go a different way. At one point. But no one was getting through the entrance that Cesar Chavez Way, Parkway and the entrance on long Harbor Drive father was there traffic was totally backed up there were several trucks waiting to get in and a long line of traffic so you know I've had some effect.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what did occupy San Diego say the protest was about.
KATIE ORR: Well this is part of a larger protest up and down the West Coast to try and stop to shut down ports and you know there was some criticism because a lot of the people who work at ports are union members and certainly may be part of the 99%. However the occupiers made the point that a lot of these parts are very valuable to corporations. And I spoke with a man, Mitchell Sterling who spoke a little bit about that.
MITCHELL STERLING (RECORDED): What supports are really indicative of Wall Street right on the waterfront. Goldman Sachs and SSG and a few companies that control all of the ports coming into the company they have it coming up to shore with really cheap labor that bring their goods into the port.
KATIE ORR: I should say that the local longshoremen's did not support the protest because they didn't want the workers' day to be disrupted.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now Prof. Copic, your expertise is in marketing and you wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle in October about what you think the occupied protest needs in terms of a message. What were some of the things they suggested?
MIRO COPIC: Well anything in terms of good marketing or good branding you have to have a focused message there has to be a value whether it is 99% that people can resonate with a lot of the messages have been fairly diffuse so you need to have one focus message may be a secondary message clear target audience is they need to talk to are you talking to the politicians are you talking to the businesses are you really talking to the Wall Street companies like Goldman Sachs or are you really talking to general businesses across the board. So what we said is look you have to focus on something and that could be, one of the big things this saintly are disenchanted, we have concerns, maybe what would make politicians take note is the idea of the American dream is dead or the idea of the American dream is severely injured at this point and we need to rethink our values and what is going to make this country great.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now you just heard from a protester from Katie Orr's sound bite there what did you think of that message?
MIRO COPIC: I think it was partially correct. The fact of the matter is that a lot of companies import products or export products, your effort from companies that are looking to export products out of the country to different parts of the world there are companies that are importing products Goldman Sachs for example is not the one that is importing products they are an investment bank. They may finance some of the inventory but they are not doing that. So it is a little bit of a misguided assessment.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now you made some predictions in the same article about the staying power of the occupied movement then. Some have come true, some not. What has surprised you about the movement?
MIRO COPIC: I think the fact that they are, that given that they do not have much of a message or a focused message that they are still around and they are still drawing enough actual physical people at these events, granted there are 1500 people initially in San Diego they are down to 70 or 80 but that's still a lot of people, it draws media attention. Draws focus to their plight and they are missing the opportunity. So things that I noticed is they are going to miss the opportunity to really have an impact and one of the comments is that as I get older it will be a little bit more of a challenge.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Katie as we we just heard from Prof. Copic, what have the numbers occupy San Diego protesters, have they seemed to dwindle since October?
KATIE ORR: You really have initially they drew you know a sizable crowds 1500 people to 1 March I believe since then I did a story last weekend I went down and there were a dozen people camped out. So it definitely has dwindled as people lives get back on track they have to get back to their jobs and families the police action doesn't make it easier coming in and grading them at two in the morning but I think when you have a big focus event like this that people can say okay I can go down to this and take part for however many hours you can get more people because it might realistically fit into people's lives a little bit more and I know they had a March last week where they drew about 50 people I believe celebrity have these focused events they seem to get more people going. I have to say that the numbers are dwindling a little bit because it was cold and it was wet. And you know, it's hard to stay out in that.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call. Simon is on the line from San Diego. Hi Simon, welcome to Midday Edition.
CALLER: Hey I just wanted to say I don't know who it was but it was a noted civil rights leaders said back in the 60s we didn't know it was the 60s. You know, this idea that occupying could come up with a message, give them time they will and in fact that's exactly what happened you know, 10, 20 years later as we look back at the 60s is this time of revolution now we are figuring out what the message was. He didn't actually know back then.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Well thank you so much for that comment and I know that Prof. Copic views it differently. You think that the movements of the past have had more of a defined message. Is that right?
MIRO COPIC: I think they generally have less things to compete ;-) compete with in the media landscape people look at their attention, and going global communications has been really shrunken so you are concerned about what's happening in Syria or Russia and unless there is a clear call to action in some form or fashion today's environment is very different than it was in the 60s because that was the only real big movement that was occurring at the time.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I went to bring Dave Lagstein, who has been waiting very patiently has been waiting to join the conversation director of the California Alliance of, or San Diego alliance for community empowerment and you know Dave a lot of people would say your experience is one of the ways that occupy San Diego is changing involving and morphing. Your organization is trying to help San Diegans who face foreclosure. How is the occupy movement influencing you?
DAVE LAGSTEIN: It's been amazing and it's interesting I actually believe that the professor predicted that the Chargers would go to the Super Bowl so we always have to take a prediction. I was completely a joke. I think that what we need to take into consideration is that the occupy movement has really put the roles of banks and Wall Street and its immunity, community and the headlines we are talking about it today we are talking about it every day in a way that experts and again I was being lighthearted in a way that experts weren't able to predict. The work that we are working on it was activists around the country, folks that were part of the occupy movement put together a national call to pledge on occupy our homes.org. This is families that were pledging if they were being evicted unfairly by the banks they were going to stand up and refuse to leave. And any folks that were in solidarity with those folks even if they weren't in that situation were going to stand behind people. And if it's helpful going to give an example this is actually where I came from this morning also being out in the cold there's a woman up in Oakland and she was unfairly affected back a couple months ago. She along with the support of her neighbors basically reclaimed that home on the national day of action which was last Tuesday. It turns out that they did a subsequent protest down to chase bank in the process of going through that it turns out that her loan was fraudulently foreclosed upon by our second lender because they didn't follow the paperwork properly. It's a complicated story, but the second lender was an investment company that was based here in San Diego because we have these networks we had a group of 20 people that went down there this morning and we asked them to stop this election because there's 13 days before Christmas if my math is right, why we are investigating and her eviction has been altered she's attempting to get modifications of this is about the link between impact of foreclosures and bank subcommunities and an organized strategy to fight back capturing the great American tradition of civil disobedience.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You in the article where you are quoted you characterize this as a brave thing the homeowners can do, staying in homes that the banks have told them that they are foreclosing on that they should leave. Why is it brave? What possible consequences do they face?
DAVE LAGSTEIN: I think when basically the zone defenses as they've been called they play out in two different ways and an eviction notice, the Sheriff is going to come and try to and put you out. So for somebody to stand up until the Sheriff that they are not going to leave that is really a brave thing. There's also the case I mentioned in Oakland people are going back into their houses because they've been unfairly foreclosed on. There are risks associated with that. Part of the role of our organization is we've done in-person teach ins as well as in conference calls to make sure when people take the risks associated with the action that they understand the responsibility and risks that they entail their signing the pledge on this website in taking this action in California and around the country.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: It sounds to me Dave that you kind of feel that occupy as you are back in this. Whereas you didn't have that kind of support before is that right?
DAVE LAGSTEIN: I think the occupy movement has made actions like this greater. And sometimes it's a little bit confusing when people talk about occupy as a proper name. So many people support occupy, some people go to the actions. Some people go to general assemblies. Occupy is about something bigger. That's a little bit harder to quantify, but the collective forget the name of occupy and in the name of organizations and activists has allowed us to get this message out stronger about the role of banks and crushing the economy and the responsibility to fix it.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Professor Copic, is it possible that this is a different type of protest movement that we've ever seen before?
MIRO COPIC: I think it could be however we've seen a lot of protest movements throughout the year and in the Middle East and have been extraordinarily successful I think the issue here is kind of separating a couple things. The first thing is people's concern and disappointment and anger around the financial service firms in the collapsing the notion that somebody needs to be blamed and there's a lot of innocent victims in the marketplace having problems struggling staying in their homes and pay mortgages. There's a lot of sympathy in that behind the occupied movement as a whole. The issue really is is the movement going to be consistent in the way it's going to talk to the public over time? So for example these kind of protests like today at the port or during the Thanksgiving, the Black Friday weekend where they are leaving shopping carts in the Walmart checkout line, that is actually impacting and percent. It is impeding the experience of those people. It's impeding the union workers from going into the ports. The activities and stones are somewhat inconsistent with the broader message that this started with himself for in order to to regain the momentum they have to be looked at more focused to people to help David's organization more effectively to be able to have a voice said that it can be a different movement can be sustained over time as a grass-roots movement but they cannot really straight.
KATIE ORR: I think just to sort of go off of that point, these are complex issues that they are protesting and I don't pretend to understand how many corporations are involved in common imports and the different activities that: there before the protest started someone was handing out sheets to protesters that the occupier in San Diego fact sheet number one why are we doing this that they list some reasons who own supports where did the instead because a lot of these people may just be people who are unhappy with the way things are doing and decide to take part in a protest but then you have people don't like me down here saying where you here today and they have some idea but not really. So they were handing out the sheets to trade help be a little bit more informed because again, not obese people don't have valid concerns, but they are complex. Like Dave was saying, the links between these things are complex.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: In the last 10 seconds we have Katie do we have any idea what occupies San Diego plans next
KATIE ORR: I saw him of that they met in a general assembly yesterday and they planned to occupy the port again tomorrow.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Okay we have to end it there I'd like to thank my guests Katie Orr, professor Miro Copic with the UCSD business school and Dave Lagstein with the alliance of Californians for community empowerment. Thank you all very much for coming.
ALL: Thank you.