If anyone had any doubts that the movement for justice in Palestine is growing by leaps and bounds, in numbers, breadth, and determination, check out what happened this morning in Oakland, CA:
• somewhere between 700 and 1,000 demonstrators from all over the San Francisco Bay Area made their way at 5:30 on a Sunday morning deep into the Port of Oakland to stage a spirited community-labor picket line in front of a berth where an Israeli freighter, the Zim Shenzhen, was due to dock;
• dock workers from Local 10 of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union refused to cross the picket line;
• under the terms of the ILWU contract, an arbitrator was summoned to the site, he upheld the legality of the dock workers’ refusal to cross the line, and the company was compelled to cancel the shift and send the workers home.
Waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanting "Free, free Palestine – don’t cross the picket line" and "An injury to one is an injury to all – the Israeli apartheid wall will fall," the demonstrators blocked three gates to the berth for more than four hours. The turnout was all the more impressive because the BART, the Bay Area subway system, doesn’t even start running until around 8 a.m. on Sunday, and even after people got to the assembly point in West Oakland, we had to walk more than a mile to get to the berth.
The event was organized by an ad hoc coalition of dozens of community and labor organizations. The main leadership came from Palestinian-Americans and other Arab Americans, with the Bay Area branch of ANSWER also playing a key role. The idea arose in response to a call issued in the wake of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, which asked workers around the world to stop unloading ships carrying Israeli goods.
For veteran Bay Area activists, today’s victory echoed a historic milestone in 1984, when ILWU workers in San Francisco refused to unload a ship called the Nedlloyd Kimberley, because its cargo came from South Africa. Just 10 years later, Nelson Mandela was elected president, and apartheid – in its South African form – was dead.
With today’s day shift cancelled, most of the picketers have now gone home to get caffeine, food, and rest, but we’re not done yet: we’re going back to the site at 4 o’clock this afternoon to put up another picket line, in hopes that the ILWU workers will again refuse to cross the line and unload the ship. If you’re in the Bay Area, be there or be square – it’s your chance to make history. Just head for the West Oakland BART at 4 to march or get a ride to Berth 58. There’s more information here.