Congratulations and thank you to the students of no less than six UC campuses that have now passed resolutions to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
UC Berkeley was the first to pass a resolution back in April 2010. Unfortunately it was immediately vetoed by the student president, and the senate was unable to overturn the veto because of Zionist pressure and intimidation. However, many other universities gained inspiration from Berkeley’s divestment attempt, and decided to follow suit.
UC Irvine was the first UC campus, in Nov 2012, to succeed. UC San Diego was second in March 2013. UC Berkeley finally passed their divestment resolution in April 2013, exactly three years after their legendary pioneering first attempt.
UC Riverside followed, in April 2014, and UC Santa Cruz in May 2014. Now UCLA has just passed its divestment resolution yesterday.
Well done to the magnificent students of these six UC campuses, who withstood intimidation from Zionist organizations, but stoically did not cave in. They have tremendous guts, all of them.
We look forward to the last three campuses following soon.
This is my own account of the days leading up to Saturday, September 27th, 2014, when activists at the port of Oakland pulled off one of the most successful and remarkable BDS actions against Apartheid Israel to date. As I was unable to attend the events on Saturday, the part I played was very small; just tracking the ship for the eight days it took coming up the coast from the Panama Canal to Oakland, and tweeting the information.
There are numerous excellent first hand accounts of the actual events at the dock, of which one is posted on this website.
Here is my story:
I started tracking the Israeli ship, the Zim Shanghai, on Friday, Sept 19th. It had just passed through the Panama Canal, and was making its way north west up the coast. I followed its progress past the Central American countries over the next couple of days, and then to Mexico. Even this early on, it seemed to be ahead of schedule. Still, there was Tropical Storm Polo to contend with later, so the captain was wise to get ahead while he could.
By Tuesday, however, the Zim Shanghai, still continuing up the coast, was still way ahead of schedule. At this rate, it would definitely arrive early, on Friday.
My sources, however, still confirmed that the ship intended to arrive in the early hours of Saturday morning.
I continued to track, and check everything.
The ship was going steadily at 16.8 knots. We all know that ships can go faster in open water than they can when approaching a port. However, why did it suddenly increase to 20.4 knots on Wednesday? There was no need, it was ahead of schedule. My imagination got creative. Had there been a sudden surge in tide? Did the captain suddenly decide to put his foot on the gas to beat the storm? Or was something else going on?
All through Wednesday and Thursday, the Zim Shanghai continued up the coast ahead of schedule.
Then late Thursday night, it happened.
One of our sources said that the Zim Shanghai would now be coming in to port at 8pm on Friday, not Sat 3.30am, and leaving at 6am Saturday morning. Protesters would arrive at the port just in time to see the ship sail away, fully unloaded. We would have been outwitted, our whole action ruined.
The Stop Zim Action Committee then made rapid plans to change the protest from Sat morning to Friday evening. The conference call went way into the wee hours. The Committee had wisely told potential demonstrators to always check social media before heading out to any protest, in case the time and date changed. This request to be flexible proved invaluable.
Plans were now in place to go to the port of Oakland to stop the ZIM Shanghai unloading on Friday afternoon. Announcements were made on social media, which of course our opposition could read as well. ‘Damn it!’ they no doubt thought; ‘they have spotted our trick of sneaking in early to catch them unawares’. Now there was no point in coming in on Friday, (and inconveniencing the pilots any more than they already had) so they changed their plans back to Saturday morning.
And so did the Stop Zim Action Committee.
So the Zim Shanghai, having used up extra fuel to arrive early, now had to idle off the coast for several hours, just south of the SF Bay entrance, killing time (and wasting money) before going in to Oakland at 3am after all. Whether or not the shipping company had to pay the pilots twice, for the Friday 8pm shift as well as the Saturday morning one, having booked both times in rapid succession, I have no idea; but it would be interesting to know!
Full accounts of the two actions taken at the port of Oakland on Sat Sept 27th can be read elsewhere. However, they can be summarized as follows:
Both actions were totally successfully in preventing the Zim Shanghai from unloading any cargo whatsoever. The members of ILWU local ten refused to cross the picket line. Only one person agreed to work the Zim ship, on the morning shift. Not a single other person signed up to work.
The Zim Shanghai, still fully loaded, now had to go all the way back down the coast, (having just come up from there!) to unload at Los Angeles instead. This put them almost five days behind schedule. The ship was supposed to have left the San Francisco Bay on Saturday, Sept 27th, but didn’t go past the entrance again until Thursday afternoon. The expected day of arrival in Vostochnny was changed from Oct 10th to Oct 14th, inconveniencing the East Asian ports in Russia, China, and South Korea. The shipping company had to pay for the extra fuel to take the cargo all the way down to Los Angeles, having passed by there only a few days before. The cargo unloaded at Los Angeles would have to have been transported back up to Oakland by road, at great expense to Zim. Or maybe it was loaded onto another ship, to be brought back to Oakland. Either way, at considerable additional cost to Zim.
The incredible success at the Port of Oakland on Sept 27th, expelling the Zim Shanghai from the port after only two shifts, could never have been achieved without the admirable cooperation of the local longshore workers.
The Stop Zim Action Committee applauds and thanks the ILWU longshore workers of local 10 for their tremendous solidarity with the Palestinian people, in keeping with their noble traditions of standing against injustice, and supporting the oppressed people of this world.
Sending the workers hugs, love, and cookies.
Transport Workers Solidarity Committee’s Response to ILWU International’s Statements on ZIM Protests
Recent ILWU press releases and public statements are misleading and conflict with well-established ILWU policies and positions on Palestine and Israel. The editor of the ILWU newspaper, The Dispatcher, at the direction of the ILWU President, can not overturn those policies and positions without a vote by Convention delegates.
The Israeli Consulate’s statement that the ZIM Piraeus sailed from the port of Oakland on August 20 after completing cargo operations is untrue. But for the ILWU Communications Director, Craig Merrilees, to make that same statement, reaffirming the Zionist’s self-serving distortion places the ILWU on the side of those responsible for the recent slaughter of over 2,100 Palestinians, most of them innocent Gazan civilians. The false statement implies that the 5-days of picketing by thousands of protesters had no impact on cargo operations. The original call for a mass protest on August 16 and 17, mobilizing a few thousand was made by a coalition, Block the Boat, initiated by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. However, subsequent picketing on August 18, 19 and 20 that stopped the ship’s cargo operations was done spontaneously by a smaller group of Bay Area activists, including the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee.
The truth is that after failing to get its cargo worked at the SSA terminal, ZIM Lines tried to fool protesters that the ship was sailing to Los Angeles, but longshoremen knew otherwise. The ship departed August 19 at 3pm, headed out the Golden Gate then abruptly reversed course at 5.30pm, made a Williamson turn and headed back to the Port of Oakland, this time to Berth 22. Ports America, the employer, tried to shift longshore workers from another ship to work the ZIM Piraeus but there already was a picket line at the terminal gate. Some ILWU Local 10 members refused to work the ship. Those that reluctantly worked it, despite pressure from the employer and union officials, rebelled by slowing down cargo ops to a crawl. One crane operator boasted that barely 1% of containers was actually moved before the ZIM ship was forced to sail.
On September 27, another ZIM ship, the Shanghai, was picketed on the day and night shifts at SSA by 200 protesters mobilized by the Stop ZIM Action Committee and the Transport Workers Solidarity Committee. Three of the organizers were Local 10 retirees, veterans of ILWU’s 1984 anti-apartheid action in San Francisco. Again, Merrilees put out untrue statements, claiming longshore workers were threatened by picketers and were standing by on safety. Actually, an appeal was made in the union hiring hall that morning asking longshoremen not to work the ZIM ship and informing them of a picket line. In a show of solidarity all longshoremen refused Zim jobs except for one. In the evening SSA agreed to remove police from the picketing area if the union would dispatch the jobs. With no police presence it was the picketers and longshore supporters vs ZIM and SSA. We won hands down!
On September 27, the ILWU International issued a press release falsely stating “ the leadership and membership of the ILWU have taken no position on the Israel/Gaza conflict.” The truth is that ILWU passed a Convention resolution in 1988 characterizing Israeli oppression of Palestinians as “state-sponsored terrorism”. ILWU’s 1991 resolution condemns Zionist “suppression of basic freedoms of speech and assembly” of Palestinians and calls for the “right of self-determination”.
Israel has blockaded the port of Gaza since 1967, stopping all ships and putting port workers and longshoremen out of work for nearly 50 years. In 2002, Local 10 officers signed a statement “For International Labor Solidarity to Stop Zionist Repression and Build a Just Peace” to protest the Zionist bombing of the headquarters of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The Journal of Commerce (August 20), the maritime bosses’ newspaper, quoted Communications Director Merrilees: “ILWU members felt threatened by the large number of demonstrators” and made a similar statement regarding the September dock protest. But the truth is the threat to longshoremen comes from the police not protesters. As Local 10 president Melvin Mackay told the San Francisco Chronicle, longshoremen would not work the ship “under armed police escort—not with our experience with the police…”
In a 2003 court case against the Oakland Police Department for shooting so-called “non-lethal” weapons at longshore workers and anti-war protesters, ILWU attorney Rob Remar meticulously documented coordinated police violence against longshore workers since the 1934 Maritime Strike in which two strikers were killed by cops, provoking the San Francisco General Strike. Nowadays ILWU International officers try to deny our militant history and undermine any semblance of class struggle on the docks, especially in the midst of the current contract negotiations. With no contract in place longshoremen can take job actions during negotiations to bolster the union at the bargaining table but the “top down” bureaucracy has reigned in the ranks, preventing the union from flexing its muscle.
Nevertheless, Local 10 has tried to continue ILWU’s proud history of solidarity actions by introducing a resolution at the 2009 Convention “commending the South African dockworkers union for taking a strike action against an Israeli ship in Durban to protest the massacre of 1400 Palestinians by the Israeli army in Gaza”. A year after the Convention resolution passed unanimously, the Local 10 Executive Board voted to “call on the ILWU International officers to lend their voice in protest with other unions against this atrocity by issuing a policy statement in line with the ILWU’s past position on the question of Israeli repression of Palestinians and call for unions to protest by any action they choose to take.” That motion paved the way for Local 10 longshoremen in 2010 in collaboration with anti-Zionist demonstrators to conduct the first-ever job action by an American trade union protesting repressive Israeli government policies. Meanwhile, ILWU International officers have only reaffirmed Israel’s press statements and run a biased pro-Israel article in The Dispatcher (January 2007) by International Secretary-Treasurer Willie Adams with no mention of the plight of Palestinians. It’s time for ILWU International officers to get on board: Oppose apartheid in Israel just as we did in South Africa. The rank and file have shown the way.
(labor donated) October 8, 2014
The gentleman featured in this video is also on the Stop ZIM committee that successfully picketed another Zim ship, the Zim Shanghai, on Saturday September 27th, one month after the first picket in August.
October 2, 2014
Brothers and Sisters of ILWU Local 10,
We, members and supporters of the Stop Zim Action Committee, want to express our gratitude to Local 10 members, who in the best tradition of the ILWU, upheld the principle of labor solidarity by honoring our picket line against the ZIM Shanghai on September 27.
We were protesting the Israeli government’s genocidal bombings of Palestinians in Gaza that killed over 2,100 people, mostly civilians, as we had informed Local 10 members by leafleting at the union hall. Thanks to your support, day and night, we were able to send a clear message to the Israeli government that when they slaughter innocent Palestinian people, their ships will be targeted by protest actions. This is consistent with ILWU Local 10’s position of defending the rights of Palestinians.
Three of the picketing protesters were Local 10 retirees who were organizers of ILWU’s historic 1984 anti-apartheid action in San Francisco. One of them announced to a rally at the picket at SSA’s Berth 57 that an announcement had been made at the dispatch hall requesting longshoremen not to take jobs on the ZIM ship. The rally broke into thunderous applause as it was reported that only one job was filled.
We know ILWU doesn’t have a longshore contract yet and actions like this can be taken by the union without legal retaliation from the employer. There could not have been a stronger showing of support than longshore workers refusing to take a dispatch to the ZIM ship. In return for your solidarity we offer to mobilize ourselves and others from the community to be on your picket line if successful contract negotiations are not achieved and ILWU goes on strike. We’ve got your back!
End the Siege of Gaza!
Picket the Zim Shanghai Starting September 27 at the Port of Oakland!
Israel and Hamas agreed to a set of conditions for a ceasefire on August 26th, after Israel had killed more than 2,100 Palestinians in Gaza – mostly civilians, more than a quarter children – and destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure, housing, hospitals, schools and water supply.
Israel claims it does not “occupy” Gaza, yet it has complete control of Gaza’s land crossings, seacoast and air space. Israel severely restricts Palestinians’ movement and their access to food, medical supplies, and construction materials.
In 1984, protesting against South African Apartheid, the Bay Area longshore workers union, ILWU Local 10, went on strike for 11 days against the Nedlloyd Kimberley, a ship carrying South African cargo.
In 2010, responding to the deadly Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Local 10 honored a picket of an Israeli-owned ZIM ship by 1,200 community and labor activists, refusing to unload the ship for 24 hours. In August 2014, Palestinian, community and labor activists, in an historic victory, blocked the Zim Piraeus for five days and forced it to leave the Bay with most of its cargo still on board.
We ask the ILWU to carry on its long historical tradition of opposing injustice and honoring community picket lines. Let’s keep the pressure on and continue this tradition of labor blockades against oppression.
Please come to a sustained community and labor activist picket beginning on September 27th to stop the Zim Shanghai from unloading or loading any cargo – from when it arrives in Oakland until it leaves. This will also send a message to stevedoring companies such as Stevedore Services of America (SSA) who are pushing for concessions right now against longshore workers who are working without a contract.
Picket Lines Mean Don’t Cross!
An Injury to One is an Injury to All!
Solidarity with the Palestinian people!
Stop ZIM Action Committee
Text “Join” to 88202 for alerts on ship location and picket status
A “sustained picket” means we will picket the Zim Shanghai from when it arrives until it leaves the Bay.
Morning assembly: 5am, West Oakland BART (starting September 27th)
Afternoon assembly: 4:30pm, West Oakland BART
Carpools will be available. The ship is expected at the SSA terminal in the Port.
Typically, each picket will last only a few hours until longshoremen decide not to cross the picket. It may last longer depending on the situation. Volunteers are need for all shifts, but especially morning shifts and the first day (morning of September 27th).
Please check your phone/Twitter/FB for updates on the ship location and picket status, particularly the day before. ZIM may delay the ship’s arrival to avoid picketers.
Account of what happened in Vancouver, Canada, written by Vancouver activists. September 10 2014 Four years ago, after the attack on the Freedom Flotilla and the solidarity port action in Oakland, Vancouver Palestine solidarity activists attempted to block a ZIM ship at Deltaport. The action was successful in bringing attention — especially among truckers and longshore operators — to the destruction of Palestine by Israel, and to ZIM’s connection with the Israeli occupation. Although the action may have caused some delay, the ship unloaded and left. Israel’s massacre in Gaza during July and August this year refocused attention on ZIM as a Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) target. It’s one of Israel’s largest corporations and Israel itself, until 2004, retained equity in the company. Since then it has been owned by the Israel Corporation which is controlled by the Ofer Brothers Group. ZIM Integrated Shipping Services operates dozens of container and bulk ships globally. Late in the summer, an ad-hoc group of Palestine solidarity activists, responding to the massacre in Gaza and inspired by actions in Oakland, California, decided to reinvigorate the anti-ZIM campaign under the banner of Block the Boat. With very little time before the arrival of the ZIM Djibouti at Vancouver’s Deltaport (Roberts Bank), the activists set to work. In the absence of a relationship with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), Local 502, the group decided to conduct a Port Information action including sign display and distributing leaflets to workers, without blocking traffic on Deltaport’s access roads. This approach was based on the group’s assessments of available people for the action and the likely perception of it by Local 502. Although somewhat different, Oakland, Long Beach and Tacoma also had port campaigns to educate workers prior to their actions to Block the Boat. On Friday, September 5, the ZIM arrived at Deltaport on schedule. We took the opportunity to photograph five members of the group holding the signs we planned to use the following day with the ZIM Djibouti in the background. That evening, as we tracked progress on an AIS reporting web site, we were surprised to see the ship leave the dock at Deltaport after about five hours. Since the Local 502 had at most a couple of hours work on the ship before it left, we assumed that very few or none of the containers left the ship. The ZIM Djibouti surprised us again, a little later in the evening, by sailing toward Victoria rather than the next scheduled landing at Tacoma. Obviously, our planned demo on Deltaport Way would take on a different character. The intention from the beginning had been to concentrate on information delivery to workers, but the absence of the ship itself gave the day a different cast. We rallied according to plan, both individuals as well as members of various groups. By 6:45 AM, signs were brought out, leaflets were folded and our action was underway. Police and private security attendance was relaxed. Activists had formed into a long line on the shoulder of the road holding 4-foot signs. The messages were “Let Gaza Live”; “Block the Boat”; “Free Palestine”; followed by “No ZIM”, and there were Palestinian flags and Keffiyehs. Traffic was moderate and, by exploiting a pedestrian crossing light, we were able to hand leaflets to workers on their way in as well as truckers heading for deliveries and pickups. Some of us also ventured into the employee parking lot and left leaflets under windshield wipers. Judging by the honks, we were understood and appreciated — hardly surprising as the massacre had been in the news for more than 40 days and the Canadian public is not generally sympathetic with the current Israeli government or the IDF. But the ZIM Djibouti was nowhere in sight. By 9:00 am Saturday, as we were beginning to wrap up, the Djibouti was heading west to a point about 300 km away from Deltaport in the distant approaches to the Strait of Juan de Fuca which separates Vancouver Island from the North West corner of Washington State. Its destination was still advertised as “Vancouver”; ZIM’s web site was still showing an arrival of September 5 and a departure for Tacoma of September 8. We tracked the ship through Saturday and Sunday, attempting to keep our Facebook page up to date twice each day as the calculated return time kept changing. The only change in the ship’s advertised status via AIS was the addition of “Hazardous A” as a cargo note. We had no contact with the local through the weekend although we noted that three previously scheduled Zim work shifts were cancelled and no new work shifts were announced. On Monday morning we were surprised again when the AIS track showed Port Angeles P. Station as the new destination. Port Angeles has no large container facilities, but there is a power station close by — though not accessible from the sea. As scheduled, the ZIM Djibouti began, Tuesday morning, moving toward Port Angeles, which is directly south of Victoria. Abruptly, later in the day, it made a 180-degree turn just outside of the Port Angeles spit, continued to turn west and having hardly slowed down, headed back out the strait. We were mystified. Operating and moving a 349 meter ship (1,145 feet) that carries more than 1,000 containers is extremely expensive. A day lost represents millions of dollars of delayed or lost revenue for ZIM and for all of its customers as well. Images of its track have been published on Facebook (Block the Zim Djibouti – Part II) and Twitter. Hour by hour, we anticipated a change in track and a subsequent rushed reassembly of the protesters on Deltaport Way. But the ship has spent Monday, the latter half of Tuesday and all of Wednesday under a controlled drift in the open ocean. Late on Tuesday, the AIS report changed. The destination was “Vancouver” once again, but the ETA is 14:30 (2:30 pm) on Tuesday, September 16. At the time of this writing, the ship is still drifting and the meter is still running. September 10 2014
Continuing the story of the block the boat boycott action at the port of Oakland, August 16-20 2014:
Having been delayed for four days, the Israeli ship, the Zim Piraeus, finally left for Russia on Wednesday, August 20th. The block the boat action was a huge success. Contrary to what the mainstream media and Zionist press reported, much of the cargo was NOT unloaded at Oakland. This information was given to us by the dock workers themselves. It has since been verified by many of the Zim customers whom we have been phoning over the last two weeks. Several of them have confirmed that they never received their cargo, that Zim has told them it was going to the Far East, and that they would not get it back again “for some months”. Full details of some of our conversations with the customers are given in this excellent report here: http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/unpublicized-impact-successful-bds-action
The Oakland boycott action has had a cumulative effect, as the ship, currently anchored in the bay outside Vostochnyy port in Russia, cannot take on more cargo until it has got rid of the stuff supposed to have been unloaded in Oakland. It has been at anchor there since at least Monday Sept 1st. (I am writing on Thursday Sept 4th.) We can only assume it is waiting for another ship to take its cargo back to Oakland before it can continue to China. Having been delayed both in Oakland and now in Vostochnyy, it is running way behind schedule. You can track its progress (or lack of it) on the cell phone app FindShip, and also here http://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:-122.3365/centery:37.73907/zoom:8/mmsi:477634800
and also here: http://www.vesselfinder.com/
Thursday NOON PDT UPDATE: After a delay of several days, Zim Piraeus has finally moored at the port of Vostochnyy! (It always moves when I am in the shower. )
What really happened at the Port of Oakland those five days in August
It’s been an amazing week. San Francisco Bay Area human rights activists managed to prevent an Israeli ship from docking in Oakland and unloading all of its cargo for four solid days!
The container ship Zim Piraeus belongs to Zim Integrated Shipping Services, of which 32% is owned by Israel Corporation. The ship was due to dock in the port of Oakland on Saturday August 16th, 2014, and leave the same day, having unloaded its cargo of 176 containers. It didn’t leave until Wednesday August 20th, with most of its cargo still on board. Human rights activists and other members of the local community, outraged by the Israeli genocide currently being committed by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people in Gaza, launched the “Block the Boat” campaign, to delay or prevent the boat from unloading. Horrific pictures have been coming out of Gaza via social media since early July, of children with limbs sliced off by DIME bombs (dense inert metal explosives), of thousands of homes destroyed, as well as several hospitals, and even UN schools where people were seeking safe haven. Over 2,000 people have now been killed, including over 500 hundred children. Many more have been wounded, with hideous, life changing loss of body parts. The people in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond gathered in Oakland to say, “Enough”. A massive boycott of Israeli ships has now begun, with other actions continuing the campaign in Los Angeles, Tacoma and Seattle. The blockade of the Zim Piraeus was the longest blockade of an Israeli ship in USA history.
Many false reports have been put out, both by the mainstream media who misunderstood information they had received, and deliberately by Zionist media.
This is what really happened, my own day by day account:
Friday 15th Aug:
Activists tracked the passage of the Zim Piraeus up the west coast of California. I followed it from off San Luis Obispo to Monterey Bay, where it unexpectedly stopped at 5pm.
The other boat associated with the Zim shipping line, the Everlasting, which had been behind the Zim Piraeus, overtook it, went straight past, and docked in Oakland around 3am Saturday morning.
Saturday 16th Aug:
Zim Piraeus had originally been scheduled to arrive early on Saturday, and leave later the same day.
However, it stayed off Monterey the whole of Saturday, drifting 6 nautical miles in one direction and then back again. The schedule was changed to say that the boat would now come in on Sunday evening at 8.30pm, according to the tracking device, VesselFinder.
A large protest was organised by a coalition of groups working for freedom and justice for the Palestinians. The March from West Oakland Bart Station to the port of Oakland, berth 57, was originally scheduled for 5am. The protest changed to 3pm, however, even though the boat was not coming in now until Sunday. The ship spent the whole of Saturday idling off the coast of Monterey Bay. Some activists questioned why the protest was not postponed to the Sunday, when the boat would come in. However, had this protest not been held, there is always the possibility that the boat might have changed plans and come in on Saturday after all
You can see a video of the march to the Port of Oaklandhere.
Sunday 17th Aug:
At 7am, the Zim Piraeus set off from Monterey Bay to the SF Bay, arriving Sunday 5pm. Since the activists had all been at the port on the Saturday, Zim perhaps assumed that we would not be back again on the Sunday. How wrong they were! Activists scrambled to get to berth 57, and by the time the new shift was due to go to work, there was a sizable picket line, accompanied by a police presence. Because of “concern for the health and safety of the workers” the shift was called off and the longshore workers (dockers) sent home.
Monday 18th Aug:
Once again, the company expected to be able to get their cargo unloaded, this time on the Monday morning shift, as many of the protesters would be at work. However, many of us are retired, or teachers not yet back at school, and about 20-30 protesters got up early to form a picket line at 5am. Once again the police were there (150 of them!), but the activists, although small in number, managed to prevent workers from entering, and this shift, once again, went home. These activists were the real heroes of the whole five days, as without their admirable dedication, the whole thing would have collapsed that dark and drizzly morning.
Buoyed by this success, another protest was organised for Monday afternoon, and again, the workers graciously would not cross our picket line, and went home. Protesters came from near and far. While most of us were from the SF Bay Area, one person drove all the way from Stockton to take part. Outrage over the ethnic cleansing in Gaza and a desire to do something has touched many people.
About 80 – 100 people attended the Monday afternoon protest. This time the police managed to divide us into two groups and herded us onto the sidewalks on either side of the main gate. There was plenty of space for the longshore workers to enter, but they refused to cross our picket line. We discovered later the reason why. Back in April 2003, anti war activists had held a protest at the docks. “The police fired wooden dowels, projectiles, sting balls, concussion grenades, tear gas, and other non-lethal weapons when protesters at the gates of two shipping lines at the port refused an order to disperse. Longshore workers and protestors were injured in the exchange.”
Because of the injuries sustained by the workers back in 2003, they now refuse to pass through a gate that is being held open by the police, citing “Health and safety concerns”. Thus it is not the activists who pose a threat to them but the police! Our own presence, stuffed on the sidewalks behind barricades, had no physical effect on stopping workers from going to work. However, our presence attracted the police, and their presence deterred the workers from entering, doing our job for us!
As with all the demonstrations, it was peaceful, and a lot of camaraderie created an atmosphere of exuberance. People who had been there since the early morning had tweeted that they needed food and water, and the rest of us responded with abundance. There was fried chicken, rice, other platters of cooked meals, bananas, cookies, yogurt and plenty of water to drink. We even offered food to all the police (“Chicken?”) but being on duty they had to refuse. Must have been tough. We had a feast! The two groups on either side of the gate chanted “Free, free Palestine, Don’t cross the picket line!” accompanied by a tuba and trumpet, while activists drummed on the barricades to provide the rhythm. Unfortunately the two groups were one beat out, and, as a music teacher, I pleaded with the police to let me stand in the middle of the road to conduct. They refused. They were all standing in a line with gaps in between, which reminded me of the formation we used to use doing folk dancing when I was a kid. I suggested we all do Hay-for-three, skipping in and out down the line, but they refused that idea too. One policeman said he would love to dance but couldn’t while in uniform. They must have got so bored, just standing there. I managed to get a few to smile to pass the time. They were trying hard to keep a deadpan face, standing in a row like frozen folk dancers. On the whole the Oakland police were reasonable, just regular folk doing their job, unlike the police in Ferguson we have been hearing about recently who have been alarmingly racist and aggressive.
It was past 9 pm when we heard that, once again, the workers were not going to work that night, and we all went home. The lady from Stockton had a long way to drive.
Tuesday 19th August:
Yet another morning picket prevented the early morning shift from going to work, and at 3pm the ship gave up and left the port of Oakland, berth 57, and headed out to sea, stated destination, Los Angeles (so the tracking devices told us). Under the Golden Gate it went, and we all thought “Good riddance” except for one or two protesters with inside knowledge, who insisted that the ship was relocating to berth 22. “Really?”, I thought. It had long gone past berth 22, and was now well past Marin Headlands. However……………
At 5.30pm the ship suddenly turned around, not far from the Farallons, and headed straight back into port! By the time it had moored at berth 22, the next shift had already gone through the gates and started work on another ship. They were pulled off that ship and sent to work on the Zim Piraeus, much to their irritation. According to one source:
“ILWU Longshoremen didn’t want to work the Zim ship, but one of their leaders, Melvin Mackay, threatened to cite anyone who didn’t work that night. The Longshoremen were pissed and slowed down work in protest. No one, including port managers, wants to deal with the Zim ship…..”
In addition, several workers left the premises at midnight for their meal break, despite the pizza that was brought in to keep them there during that time. (The activists also got pizza brought to them, but not by the Zim shipping line!) One worker who did leave told the activists to get more people there to make sure he couldn’t get back in! “They’re w/ us if we show up!” tweeted one activist. Accordingly, more people showed up and others decided to stay until after 2 am, so even less workers worked the second part of their shift, and those that did were going slow anyway.
We will probably never know if the decision by the longshore workers to “go slow” was because of their solidarity with the Palestinian people, their solidarity with those protesting outside, because of irritation from having been deceived, or a mixture of all three.
176 containers were supposed to be unloaded that night, but no more than 50 got unloaded, comprising the “perishables and high-value goods”. (A corporate Port of Oakland official told one activist that the Zim Piraeus was supposed to unload 176 containers but only unloaded 26. Other reports say 50, but no more than that.)
However, the leader of the longshore workers told the media that they had “unloaded everything that was intended to be unloaded”. No one thought to ask “intended by whom?” The media took this to mean everything that the Zim shipping line intended them to unload. However, it actually referred to everything the longshore workers intended to unload, which was the perishables and the high-value cargo. That was all they did!
Wednesday 20th Aug:
The media duly announced that the unloading had been completed that night, and the ship left the port at about 8am. Instead of going out to sea straight away, being 4 days late now (it was supposed to have left on the Saturday) it turned left and went down to anchor in the south bay, just north of Hunters’ Point. Many other ships were anchored there too, as it is much cheaper than staying in port. It anchored there for 8 hours, until 5pm. None of the media who had reported that the unloading had been successfully completed seemed to wonder why the ship was sitting in the south bay for no apparent reason. No one asked why it hadn’t set off to Russia, being already so late. Many of the activists knew the real reason; that the boat was hoping to go in to a berth – any berth – to finish unloading its cargo. However, no berth was found for them. Whether this was because they were all full up (the Zim ship’s space was supposed to have been Saturday morning) or whether the port was fed up with it all and just wanted to see the back of them, we will probably never know. Either way, the boat once again passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, and set out to sea. Of course we were all tracking it obsessively to see if it was going to do another U-turn like it did the previous day, but it continued, and then turned north into the main shipping channel, and by midnight when it was far out to the north west parallel with Eureka we knew we were shot of it at last. Now the Zim Piraeus is on its way to Russia, taking about two thirds of the containers with it that were supposed to have been unloaded in Oakland!
By the time that the Zim Piraeus ship had left, it was four days behind schedule, but the estimated time of arrival in Russia had only been changed by one day, from August 31st to Sept 1st. This means that it will have to cross the Pacific in 12 days flat, instead of 15. It will have to go much faster, and burn up much more fuel which will cost the company a lot of extra money. In addition, the company would have had to have paid increased fees to stay in port longer than planned, as well as having to pay for a pilot going in and out of the SF Bay twice.
Throughout the five days of action, the longshore workers were terrific in supporting us. They have a long history of supporting human rights. For example, they refused to unload South African ships during the Apartheid era. Now they are doing the same against Apartheid Israel.
The whole boycott action was a terrific success, and we really feel that we made history. The four day delay caused considerable inconvenience to the Zim shipping line, and customers in the future will no doubt think twice before using them, especially those whose stuff is now on its way to Russia.
During all this time the Israel propaganda machine was working non stop to spread false information. They even tried their hand at prophesying the future! On Wednesday morning Jewishpress.com reported that “Members of the ILWU dock workers’ union in Oakland, California on Wednesday afternoon unloaded the ZIM ship that anti-Israel picketers blocked last week.”
(What, while it was anchored in the South Bay? How did they get the cranes out there? Next time they must examine their crystal balls more carefully.)
Our next job is to contact all the companies that use the Zim Shipping Line, to suggest that using Zim could mean delayed deliveries, as our protests will continue. This may persuade them to switch to another company from one that is so heavily involved in human rights abuses. See http://pastebin.com/hXbkA5za.
Other protests scheduled by human rights activists on the West coast involve the Zim Chicago in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington, and the Zim Haifa in Los Angeles from Sat Aug 23rd.
Groups of activists up and down the west coast will be doing their best to prevent Zim ships from unloading on an ongoing basis.
This is the least we can do for the people of Palestine, many of whom have lost their land, their fishing boats, their homes, their limbs, their loved ones, and their lives.