Some 1,000 demonstrators affiliated with the Arab Resource & Organizing Center and the local Longshoremen Union blocked six gates at Berth 30 of Oakland Harbor in northern California on Friday to keep the cargo of an Israeli ship from being unloaded. The ship, Volans, is owned by Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd., commonly known as ZIM, which is a publicly held Israeli international cargo shipping company, and one of the top 20 global carriers.
The demonstrators chanted, “Back up! Back up! We want Freedom, Freedom! All these Zionist attacks, we don’t need ’em, need ’em.”
Poetry in motion.
— AROC #BlocktheBoat (@AROCBayArea) June 4, 2021
AROC executive director Lara Kiswani issued a statement saying: “We wonder if doing business with ZIM is worth it to the Port of Oakland, employers at the Port, and other shipping companies. We honor the workers here in Oakland and Palestine and are sending a clear message that profiteering from Israel’s apartheid and ongoing violence against the Palestinian people will not be welcome in the Bay Area.”
Wassim Hage, a spokesman for the protesters, told Mercury News: “Our goal today is to show the city of Oakland that we do not want them to do business with and allow Israeli apartheid money to come into our city. It’s part of an international picket movement at port cities around the world that will be going on over the next couple of weeks.”
According to Hage, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse’s Union Local 10 took part in the pickets as “a huge show of solidarity between organized working people and the struggle for Palestine liberation.”
Hage also said that stop ZIM ships action will take place in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Houston, Seattle/Tacoma, and New York/New Jersey. He said similar action is on the way in Italy and South Africa as well.
On Saturday, the bay area AROC tweeted: “VICTORY!!! The ZIM ship is leaving! They know our picket lines are too strong! We aren’t leaving until we are sure they are gone for good!”
— AROC #BlocktheBoat (@AROCBayArea) June 5, 2021
In reality, the strength of those picket lines was never tested, since Trent Willis, president of ILWU Local 10, reported that the Harbor employers on Friday morning decided to shut the terminal down, probably for safety reasons. According to the bay area NBC affiliate, Willis did not say whether his union members honored the protesters’ request, but did say they don’t fight protesters and are “not strikebreakers.”
Port spokesman Robert Bernardo released a statement saying Port officials support free speech as well as the right for people to assemble peacefully. “At the same time,” he added, “federal policy dictates that international commerce cannot be stopped. This means that groups can protest, but they cannot disrupt commerce. The Port has been engaged with our public safety partners to maintain safety and security while ensuring the timely flow of commerce at the Oakland Seaport.”
Apparently, not so much, since the ZIM ship had to leave Oakland harbor in search of a more hospitable one. According to Bernardo, 84,000 jobs are provided by the harbor and its affiliated trucking companies, and blocking commerce in the harbor will jeopardize local jobs.
“Many Port truck drivers only get paid if they pick up and drop off containers,” Bernardo said. “If they get blocked from going in and out, they won’t get paid. This will impact their livelihood and their families.”