Historic day in Oakland: Israeli ship blocked from unloading
In an unprecedented action yesterday at the Port of Oakland, hundreds of activists succeeded in preventing the offloading of an Israeli cargo ship for 24-hours, in protest against the massacre of participants of the Freedom Flotilla and the blockade of Gaza in general. This was the first time such an action had been carried out against an Israeli ship in the United States, and the first time in the world such an action had occurred since the Freedom Flotilla massacre. In coming days, other actions, these initiated by unions, will occur in Norway, Sweden, and South Africa.
At 5:00 a.m., somewhere between 800 and 1000 activists began a spirited 5-hour picket in front of the four different gates of Berth 58 of the Port of Oakland. Workers of the ILWU who were expecting to offload the Israeli ship that day refused to cross the picket line, and at 9:00 an arbitrator ruled in favor of the union that attempting to cross the picket line would be unsafe for union members. Because the workers had been called in to work by the company, the workers were paid even though they did not work, and it is reported that this cost the company $20,000.
As a result, the company did not call the workers back in for the afternoon/evening shift, fearing a repetition. Approximately 300 activists returned (or, like myself, came for the first time) at 4 p.m. to begin a second picket of the four gates. Information had it that the company could still call the workers back in as late as 7 p.m., so the picket continued until that time, at which point complete victory in the 24-hour shutdown was declared. Richard Becker of the ANSWER Coalition, Jess Ghannam of the Free Palestine Alliance, Michael Eisensher of U.S. Labor Against the War, and Clarence Thomas of the ILWU addressed a short but spirited rally to close the days events.
Two statements read to the rally showed the international impact of the event. One, sent by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions said, "Your action today is a milestone in international solidarity from honest and brave U.S. workers and trade unionists. Greetings to you from the trade unionists and workers of Palestine … from the trade unionists and workers trapped in Gaza."
The second, from the Central of Cuban Workers (CTC), read "Our people have lived for 50 years of an unjust and abominable blockade by the U.S. government, so we understand very well how the Palestinian people feel and we will always be in solidarity with their just cause. Today we send you our most sincere support. Long live the solidarity of the working class! End the Blockade of Gaza! Respect and justice for the people of Palestine!"
For links to coverage from both local media and participants, see the excellent left i on the news.