Protesters Prevent Unloading of Israeli Ship at
Longshore workers don't cross picket lines set up by
By Sean Maher Oakland Tribune June 21, 2010
Hundreds of peace activists prevented the unloading of
an Israeli ship at the
forming a picket line that was considered a threat to
longshoremen who could otherwise have worked.
Organizers said their goal was to delay the ship's
unloading for 24 hours in protest of the Israeli
military's May 31 open seas raid on a humanitarian aid
flotilla that had been bringing goods to
resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish citizens.
Several hundred people gathered around 5:30 a.m. at
berths 57, 58 and 59, which is operated by SSA
Terminals. An Israeli Zim Lines ship was expected to
arrive in the morning, but though it didn't arrive
until the afternoon, the crowd stayed, preventing
workers from unloading a ship from
the crowd's leaders and pickets shouted, blocking the
berths' entrances and preventing about 100 longshoremen
from walking past.
The longshoremen's union largely cooperated with the
picket line. No workers tried to cross it and Clarence
Thomas, an executive board member of the International
Longshore and Warehouse
want our members getting into fist fights or anything.
We don't want police escorting us to work. That's unsafe."
Organizers had informed
for the picket, and OPD reported no arrests.
Richard Mead, president of Local 10 said Sunday evening
that SSA decided against ordering night shift workers
to unload the Israeli ship so employees didn't show up
and didn't have to cross any picket lines.
"We can't make them order a crew," said Mead. "It is
The shutdown was a success for protesters who wanted to
halt the business of the ship for 24 hours, said
organizer Richard Becker.
"We consider this to be a huge victory and a historic
moment," he said. "This is the first time this has
happened, that an Israeli ship was blocked from
unloading in a
Even after protesters heard that the shutdown was
successful, around 200 people continued to picket until
7 p.m., about an hour and a half after the ship docked.
The flotilla raid, protesters said, was only the latest
injustice to come from
considers hostile neighbors: marchers demanded
end its blockade of
"My grandmother's Jewish. I'm not anti-Semitic," said
Larkspur resident Frank McClain, who had joined the picket line.
staged a raid in international waters. If Somalis had
done that, they'd be called pirates and we'd have
punished and stopped them immediately.
it and our president calls it 'an unfortunate
one will touch it because all their funding will get
With no recourse available from elected officials,
actions are left with no way to change the situation
besides hitting Israeli businesses where it hurts:
their bottom line.
Organizers Forrest Schmidt called the event part of "a
worldwide campaign to change
of boycotts, sanctions and divestment."
The demonstration was ostensibly held in the name of
peace, but organizers said they hoped to avoid costing
workers a day's pay by convincing an arbiter called to
the scene that the line was "a threat to the health and
safety" of any longshoreman who tried to cross the
Under the longshoremen's contract, that judgment could
require SSA to pay the scheduled workers, vessel
operations manager Randy Laugel said.
However, Laugel added, if the workers were not
available for the employer to call on them to work,
they might not be paid at all, and at best they can
hope for a half-day's wages, a far cry from the full-
day's overtime pay they'd have gotten for working a
Sunday. Most scheduled longshoremen drove by the SSA
berths, saw the picket line and drove away, he said.
"I just think it's sad that 100 or so workers who took
the day away from Father's Day to work aren't going to
make their money," Laugel said.
Michael Eisenscher, a national coordinator for
Labor Against the War and an organizer of the picket,
declined to expressly call the event a threat to
workers, but the crowds cheered when the arbiter
declared that it was.
"If you see a handful of people like this, and they're
angry and making a lot of noise, you draw your own
conclusion," Eisenscher said.
Hamas took power there in 2007.
While officials have sworn that
apologize for the raid, citing videos of one ship's
passengers attacking the Israeli troops, in a statement
steps the country plans to take to ease the blockade.
Staff writer Elizabeth Nardi contributed to this report
Contact Sean Maher at email@example.com.