“Let the world register that on 16 August 2014, we prevented the apartheid Zim liner for the second time from docking and unloading anywhere on the West Coast,” declared the official statement from the Arab Resource and Organizing Center when word arrived that the Israeli cargo ship had chosen to stay at sea, avoiding thousands of protesters marching toward the northern California port of Oakland on Saturday.
Bay Area activists see their success at delaying the Israeli cargo ship from offloading at Oakland as a significant victory for Palestine solidarity work, especially in light of Israel’s month-long assault on the civilian population of Gaza.
For more than two weeks, Palestine solidarity activists have been mobilizing their own network as well as reaching out to port workers in the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union to ensure that Oakland port would be shut down for the Zim vessel’s usual weekly arrival.
Zim Integrated Shipping Services is Israel’s international maritime cargo company.
On Friday night an online ship tracking service showed that the container vessel Zim Piraeus remained at sea off Monterey, California, rather than docking at Oakland as would have been expected.
Delays in docking may add significant costs for Zim as well as holding up the delivery of cargo to final destinations.
Activists believe this was in direct response to the dockside mobilization. Organizers called off the original 5:00am Saturday meet-up time, and sent word to participants via social media and email to rally instead at 3:00pm, when another shift of port workers would be called in.
Reem Assil, an activist with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, told The Electronic Intifada that protest organizers suspected the ship’s maneuver toward Monterey was an attempt to diffuse momentum for the action.
But on Saturday afternoon hundreds of people convened at the West Oakland BART public transit station to march to the port en masse to create a picket line.
Solidarity with Ferguson
While the solidarity action was in response to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza and to a call by the Palestinian General Federation Trade Union, marchers also called attention to the recent murder of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
As approximately two thousand people filed into the port with drum beats keeping their energy up, many chanted: “From Ferguson to Palestine, police brutality is a crime,” “Hands up, don’t shoot!” as well as “Block the boat! Block, block the boat!” and “Free Palestine, Long live the Intifada!”
Witnesses said that the unarmed Brown was shot to death by a police officer on 9 August as he tried to surrender, sparking ongoing protests in Ferguson and around the country at this latest act of unprovoked police brutality targeting a young African American man.
Even before the demonstrators made it to the loading dock, however, organizers got word that the Zim ship would remain at sea and not dock at the Oakland Port.
AROC members read their victory statement as they continued to march toward Berth 57, where Zim Pireaus was scheduled to dock:
The Zim Pireaus arrived in Northern California by afternoon yesterday. It could have docked by early Saturday morning. We held the Zim off in place due to our readiness and mobilization at 5am. We showed up again at 3pm to stop the scheduled work crews from unloading the ship. Our actions today have sent a clear message that genocide and apartheid does not pay in Oakland, or anywhere on the West Coast.
Our action along with the hundreds of thousands of people who mobilized worldwide in solidarity with the resilient Palestinian people should send a clear and resounding message that the beginning of the end for the Zionist apartheid regime in Palestine is upon us.
Once at Berth 57, a line up of speakers from some of the seventy different organizations that had endorsed the action read statements in solidarity.
Eyad Kishawi, a local activist and frequent speaker, told the crowd: “As the people in Gaza under occupation have a right to defend themselves … so do the people in Ferguson from a racist system.”
According to local reports, the Zim Pireaus is now scheduled to dock tonight, 17 August, and the Marine Traffic website shows it steaming toward the San Francisco Bay.
Assil said that AROC is excited about building on the momentum of the event for future actions, as well as the strong Palestinian solidarity activist and worker coalition that this event helped to forge.