OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A Pro-Palestinian protest shut down a section of the Port of Oakland on Friday, blocking a container ship from being unloaded. It is an Israeli ship and the protesters are blocking it to show their support for the Palestinians.
"It's incumbent on all of us as taxpayers to demand more and to stop U.S. aid to Israel as long as the violence continues," said organizer Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.
The ship is an Israeli ZIM operated cargo ship carrying a mixture of products from Asia.
The group protested this shipping company the last time it sent a ship to Oakland in 2014. That protest lasted for three months. The company has not been back since.
"So to our surprise, it was planning on coming back. So we called for mobilization and that's why we are here today," Kiswani said.
Standing off to the side of the protest was a group of longshoreman who can't work and unload the ship because of the protest.
"For our health and safety, we are not going to cross the picket line. Our job is not to come out here and fight the protesters, our job is not to get inside or to protest with them our job is to move commerce," said John Hughes, the business agent for Local 10, the union that represents the longshoreman.
Union leaders say they will call the terminal operator to find a way to get these workers paid.
"We are not going to allow our members to be punished for something they didn't do," Hughes said.
We asked both the workers and the protesters how long they can sustain this.
"With the shaky economy, people coming off of COVID....I don't know. I don't know," Hughes said.
"Today, we are saying we are here for the day. We take it shift by shift," said Kiswani.
We asked the Oakland Police Department if officers plan to force protesters out of the way and received this response:
"The Oakland Police Department is helping facilitate safe places and safe spaces for those at the port. For any additional questions please reach out to the Port of Oakland."
The Port Of Oakland released this statement:
"The Port of Oakland fully supports free speech rights as well as safe and legal assembly. At the same time, 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.
Preventing commerce, jeopardizing local jobs, and compromising the healthy future of the port will only hurt Oakland and the region. The port contributes to 84,000 jobs in our region. Most of these jobs are located within the City of Oakland. Many port truck drivers only get paid if they pick up and drop off containers. If they get blocked from going in and out, they won't get paid. This will impact their livelihood and their families. Oakland processes about 15 percent of the tonnage among U.S. West coast ports. Southern California ports handle about 65 percent. These shipping disruptions will only divert more cargo, more business, and send more jobs to Southern California."
The Zim shipping company did not respond to calls for comment.
As to why the company sent a ship here now after seven years, the port says online shopping is up so much, it is creating congestion at the port in LA. This ship was sent here to try and ease the traffic jam down south.