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Showdown at the Port: Occupy Houston protestors block traffic with their bodies, clash with police

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Occupy Houston Port
Early on, protestors and police faced off, while reinforcement waited in the wings. Photo by Whitney Radley
Occupy Houston Port
The first group broke away and blocked the access road. Photo by Whitney Radley
Occupy Houston Port
The group claimed to be exercising their first amendment right in blocking traffic to the port's main entrance. Photo by Whitney Radley
Occupy Houston Port
According to the fire department, the inflatable tent was intended to prevent a grass fire when firefighters used tools to remove protestors' lockboxes. Photo by Whitney Radley
Occupy Houston Port
The second group, many connected by lockboxes, sat down across another stretch of road. Photo by Whitney Radley
Occupy Houston Port
The inflatable tent was moved to cover the other group. Some officers had placed tape over their name badges. Photo by Whitney Radley
Occupy Houston Port
Occupy Houston Port
Occupy Houston Port
Occupy Houston Port
Occupy Houston Port
Occupy Houston Port
The Port of Houston Authority
Get Directions - 111 East Loop North Houston

In conjunction with West Coast Port Shutdown and in solidarity with similar movements from here to Honolulu, Occupy Houston — and representatives from occupations in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio — took on the Port of Houston Authority on Monday afternoon. By the end of the protest, 25 occupiers were arrested.

The day of action was conceived as an effort to support the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the California truck drivers attempting to form a labor union. Though the blue-collar port jobs seem a far cry from the suits and portfolios of Wall Street, occupiers also considered the port protest "a statement against the multinational conglomerates and their relentless campaign to outsource American jobs and undermine our economy in the pursuit of ever-widening profit margins."

 More than 35 police officers stood by, watching and videotaping the protestors. Some officers were mounted on horseback and others were armed with zip ties, caution tape and batons. 

Occupiers convened at the Tranquility Park at 9:30 a.m. to paint signs and talk strategy, then caravanned to the East Loop around 1 p.m. The protest began peacefully. More than 100 protestors stood on a street corner of the Port Authority's main entrance, chanting and rapping, holding signs, waving flags and wearing masks.

Across the street, in the median, more than 35 police officers stood by, watching and videotaping the protestors. Some officers were mounted on horseback and others were armed with zip ties, caution tape and batons. In a nearby parking lot, more Houston Police Department, Houston Fire Department, Harris County Sheriff Department forces and representatives from the Department of Homeland Security awaited a call to action.

As more carloads of occupiers arrived, the movement began to shift to other street corners. Suddenly, a group of six protestors broke away from the group and ran down the access road, locking arms and lying prostrate on the ground to block traffic to the port. Shortly after, a second group — some bound together with PVC lockboxes on their arms — blocked another portion of the road. 

For minutes, protestors and police faced off, neither group releasing any ground. Officers hauled in a truckload of steel barricades to cordon off protestors and spectators, then inflated a red tent and covered the latter group of protestors (to prevent a grass fire while firefighters used tools to removed the lock boxes). At least 11 were arrested in the first wave.

Officers stood stoically by as the Houston Fire Department carried the tent to cover the group of six (who were not linked together by lockboxes). Some protestors directed disparaging comments at police officers, who had covered their badges with tape.

"I'm afraid this might erode the good relationship that Occupy Houston has had with the Houston Police Department," occupier Eric Boyd told CultureMap. "It's really important that we preserve the environment at Tranquility (Park), but most of the ones who are causing a scene are outsiders. They won't have to face the consequences of increasing levels of antagonism, but Occupy Houston will."

In addition to the 17 occupiers forming a blockade, several other protestors were taken away for obstructing the officers.

Once the vehicles carrying out the arrests were driven away, the tent deflated and the fire truck removed, police officers opened the barricade gate. Officers and occupiers interacted amicably. The occupiers were anxious to get to downtown Houston, where a rush hour march down Main Street was planned, as well as a potluck dinner at Tranquility Park.

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