Pro-Palestinian protesters claim victory at Port of Oakland

Byby Sergio Quintana via KGO logo
Thursday, August 21, 2014
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Pro-Palestinian protesters hoped to prevent or delay an Israeli cargo ship from delivering its goods in Oakland Wednesday to impose economic costs on Israel.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Pro-Palestinian protesters in Oakland are claiming victory after five days of demonstrations at the port and a cat-and-mouse game that played out before the Israeli ship could eventually be unloaded.

There is no one at the Port of Oakland now. After protesters got word the ship left, they moved away from the driveway and eventually dispersed.

What the protesters lacked in numbers, they made up for in volume. "We're doing something physical. We're giving them a blockade, just like the blockade they imposed on Gaza," Castro Valley resident Unis Baracat said.

By preventing or delaying the cargo ship from delivering its goods, organizers hoped to impose economic costs on Israel.

"This is a real economic hit to the investors of this shipping company, including the state of Israel which has a huge stake in the corporation," Pro-Palestinian organizer Reem Assil said.

However, Israeli Consul General Andy David said his government hasn't seen any impact. "Did I get any call from people protesting about Israel's policy vis a vis the Palestinians because of this ship? The answer is certainly not," David said.

The group, which calls itself Block the Boat, did succeed in delaying longshoremen and others from getting to work at the port on Wednesday morning even though the cargo was eventually offloaded. There were dock workers who didn't cross the picket lines.

A longshoreman, who didn't want to give his name, said he had no choice but to wait. "These people are standing up for something. I'm not going to drive through that line right now. I'm standing by on health and safety," he said. His union said it neither supports or opposes this effort.

At one point, the protesters apologized to the idle port workers but, ultimately, they felt standing up for Palestinians was worth it.

"We want to boycott Israel. They are killing babies. They are killing children. They are killing civilians over there," San Francisco resident Saloa Sharif said.

"As long as Palestinians and Gazans are denied trade, free access to the rest of the world, and are an occupied people militarily and are being brutalized, especially right now in Gaza, Israeli trade shouldn't be allowed to happen either," San Francisco resident Jim Haber said.

The protest started days ago. The ship did leave port without unloading on Tuesday but came back a few hours later.

A little before 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, protesters got word the ship was leaving again. They moved aside, allowing workers to stream into the parking lot.

The International Teamster's Union, which represents truck drivers and other workers, said this protest is costing their members.

Teamster's spokesman Dough Bloch said Target has already closed down one of their warehouse operations in Oakland because of the Occupy protests in 2012. He said it cost 100 jobs.