Tuesday, June 22, 2010

At the Oakland, California port:

Hundreds of demonstrators blockade Israeli goods.

From Mondoweiss, June 21, 2010, at:


On June 20th an “ad hoc coalition of dozens of community and labor organizations” converged at the Port of Oakland with the goal of blocking, for 24 hours, the unloading of an Israeli ship.

Dockworkers approached but did not cross the picket line. Management insisted that the line should be crossed. An arbitrator was brought in and the union argued that crossing the line posed a threat to the health and safety of workers. The arbitrator agreed and the ship was prevented from unloading for 24 hours...

...Quick follow-up on today's action at the Oakland docks: we won!

Something like 400 or 500 people - many who had also been there at 5:30 in the morning, plus others who hadn't made the first shift - turned up to resume the picket line at 4 p.m. I was surprised there weren't more: I had assumed there would be far more people in the afternoon, with the BART running, but I guess even in the Internet age it's hard to get people out with only a a couple of hours notice.

Still, there were more than enough people to re-create strong picket lines at all three gates to the berth where the Israeli ship was coming in. Faced with the prospect of workers again refusing to cross the picket line and the arbitrator again ruling in their favor, the company that runs the dock (SSA, or Stevedoring Services of America, which has also run the port of Basra, Iraq, since the American invasion in 2003) elected to cancel the evening shift.

The ship docked while we picketed, and presumably it will be unloaded tomorrow - right now we don't have the strength to keep up the picket line indefinitely, and even if we did, we can't really ask the longshore workers to stay off the job forever. But we succeeded in delaying it for a full day, which was exactly what we'd hoped to achieve.

And while none of the local TV stations made it to the 5:30 a.m. picket - despite an extensive media outreach effort - they were there in droves this afternoon. The couple of segments I caught tonight weren't too bad, even though they gave disproportionate time to the two Zionist counter-protestors who camped out, waving Israeli flags, across the street from the afternoon picket. As of 11:00 p.m. PDT on Sunday, Google News finds 284 stories about the action, and my sampling suggests that most of them - such as this story from the Bay Area News Group, which includes the Oakland Tribune, the San Jose Mercury News, and most of the other community papers in the region - are fair if not actually sympathetic.

One final observation: the Oakland police were out in force from before dawn until our closing rally at 7 p.m., but aside from bugging us to stay out of the almost completely deserted roadway in front of the pier, they made no effort to interfere with the picketing, even when we blocked the two or three cars that tried to cross the line.

In fact, they weren't even dressed in riot gear, and some of them went out of their way to be polite. Quite a change from their behavior at the same location in April 2003, when we called a similar early-morning community-labor picket to protest a ship being loaded with supplies for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the cops responded by blasting us, without the slightest provocation, with an array of "sub-lethal" toys they had recently received from the Department of Homeland Security, including "flash-bang" grenades and guns firing wooden dowels and bean-bag rounds.

I'll never forget either that action or today's, but this one was a lot more satisfying!