Occupy San Diego Riders Raid Malls, Port
“First you pick a few targets, set a date, and make related signs, banners, and flyers. On the day of the raid everyone meets up and rides to the first location. On arrival we all dismount and demonstrate for 10 to 15 minutes. When the time is up everyone hops back on their bikes and heads to the next location. With the mall we will want to pick the main entrances of major stores as well as riding laps and chanting."
“It was great,” says Watts of the Occupy San Diego Riders’ fourth raid, which took place this afternoon. “We rode around the city a bit, went to Mission Hills, down Bachman, went to Fashion Valley mall, hit the two main entrances there, rode to the Mission Valley mall and hit the main entrance there, then rode back up Texas.”
Watts says that five riders participated today, though the weekly Tuesday rides starting from the Civic Center at 8:30 p.m. usually draw 20 to 30 cyclists.
“Even with five people you make a huge impact,” says Watts. “It’s not about making people feel guilty. It’s just showing people that there are others out there taking hours out of their day to raise awareness about the amount of consumerism that goes on."
As such, the group engaged mall-goers with fliers and signs reading “buy local” and “people over profits.”
“We got to show people that there are people all over the city doing Occupy,” says Watts. “That’s what the riders are all about: scouting, messaging, having signs all over the place. It’s not just at the Civic Center, it’s everywhere. And it’s so much fun.”
Earlier this month, the Riders took part in the West Coast port shutdown, a day of action that disrupted port activity in ten cities, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska.
The Riders, who Watts calls “the cavalry arm of the occupation,” relayed messages between two groups of protesters on Harbor Drive estimated to number from 150 to 200 people in total.
The port was blocked for about two hours and four protesters were arrested.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, but we’re trying to do something good here,” Watts says in response to criticism that the action costs port workers a day’s wage.
“It takes sacrifice, and the unions know well about sacrifice. In my experience, most port workers down there were in support. The majority were not angry. I can understand how people might be upset about missing a day of work, but there’s something much larger at stake. They aren’t the target. It just happens that every time you try to make a dent in the super wealthy, you have people suffer in the working class ahead of them.
“We don’t have Wall Street here, but we do have companies that are owned by Wall Street firms. The majority of the West Coast ports are owned by SSA Marine, and their largest shareholder is Goldman Sachs. EGT [Export Grain Terminal] Development is an international grain conglomerate that has been undermining unions' work on the West Coast, specifically the longshoremen who were being beaten and arrested on strike in Longview, Washington. That was kind of what sparked the whole idea of the port shutdown starting in Oakland. But it runs a lot deeper than that. These ports represent American jobs being outsourced. It represents, a lot of the time, slave labor overseas and destroying the environment.
“I think the point was definitely made. In San Diego we achieved some level of success. We shut the port down for two hours. And in the process, we learned a lot. Not only were there practical reasons for it, but the symbolism of the action in and of itself was almost more powerful than the practical side. It shows people in the country and around the world that there are people here that care enough to put their safety and time on the line to stand up against corruption. I think that’s something that’s entirely undervalued, especially in the mainstream media. A lot of likeminded people are marginalized by mainstream media. It makes Occupy seem unimportant, but in fact it’s the most important thing going on in this country right now.
“It goes back to sacrifice. It’s making a point. There’s so much wrong with what’s going on in our country and our world that we as Americans can take responsibility for. If we own that responsibility, we can make this world a better place. We have to stand up. Silence is consent.”