One thousand people left the West Oakland BART (subway) station Saturday afternoon about 3:30 PM on their way to the Port of Oakland, Berth 57. Their goal? Prevent an Israeli-owned ship from unloading, in solidarity with Palestinians and in symbolic opposition to the blockade and bombardment of Gaza, standing with other protesters around the world.
Photograph: Justin Benttinen/The Guardian
A funny thing happened along the way. Not one, but two thousand people ended up at Berth 57, as more and more people joined the march along the two mile trek to the Port.
An even "funnier" thing happened to the target ship. It didn't move. It stayed in the Pacific Ocean, moving in a circle all day Saturday. As the Guardian noted:
An Israeli ship that was scheduled to dock at the port of Oakland in California on Saturday remained at sea as between 2,000 and 3,000 pro-Palestinian activists streamed towards the port entrance, chanting and waving flags.The San Francisco Bay Area and the ILWU have a long and storied tradition of refusing to unload ships, dating back to the 1930's.
The protesters intended to form a picket line to prevent work crews from unloading the ship.
Activists had originally planned to meet at 5am for a blockade of the Zim Integrated Shipping Services vessel, but word that its arrival had been delayed prompted organisers to push the protest back until later in the afternoon.
ILWU has a long history of refusing to load ships from countries engaging in gross violations of human rights. In the 1930s, West Coast dockworkers refused to load and offload ships belonging to Italy after they invaded Ethiopia, and Japan after it invaded Manchuria.Video Update:
In 1978 and 1980, ILWU refused to load military cargo headed for Chile and El Salvador respectively. And in 1984, the union refused to unload a South African ship for 11 straight days...
In 2010... activists successfully prevented the offloading of a Zim Lines ship in an historic first, ((ILWU)) Local 10 relied on the port's arbitrator to declare the working conditions unsafe.
Following are tweets and tweetpics in approximate chronological order as the action happened.
Gathering in West Oakland.
On the way to the Port.
the Brass Liberation Orchestra!
Across the Causeway and down into the Port.
Look at this amazing sea of humanity ready to tell Israeli Zim lines they aren't welcome in Oakland [pic via Andrew] pic.twitter.com/ucB2kVczdk— Jaime Omar Yassin (@hyphy_republic) August 17, 2014
At Berth 57.
No Oakland protest is complete without a large presence of useless police.
Learning that the ship is staying out in the Pacific.
An interesting type of standoff right now, as 1500 demonstrators picket at the docks, & the Israeli ship circles in the sea #blocktheboat— Occupy Oakland (@OccupyOakland) August 16, 2014
Back into Oakland, after a rally and being informed that the ship wasn't anywhere nearby.
Just to be clear: We coulda shut down any gate 2day. OPD was immobilized by our sheer #'s & blocking gates w/their own scrimmage line— Jaime Omar Yassin (@hyphy_republic) August 17, 2014
A final note from Oakland's action tweetchronicler herself:
Easiest port shutdown i've gone to so far!— Alyssa (@alyssa011968) August 17, 2014