Oakland activists blockade port, delaying U.S. weapons cargo bound for Israel
Palestinian solidarity demonstrators delayed the departure of the U.S. military ship Cape Orlando for nine hours from the Port of Oakland in Oakland, Calif., Friday, Nov. 3, 2023. | Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group via AP

OAKLAND—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be waiting an extra nine hours for at least one ship full of weapons intended for his war against Gaza.

That’s because protesters in Oakland, Calif., blockaded the Cape Orlando, a U.S. military cargo ship which was due to depart for Washington state on Nov. 3 to pick up a load of armaments bound for Israel.

In the early morning, at approximately 6 a.m., protesters gathered at the Port of Oakland, forming a picket line at the entrance to Cape Orlando’s docking zone.

“This ship is going to Tacoma and then to Israel with weaponry,” Priya Prabhakar, a volunteer with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA), announced to those gathered.

“It’s imperative that this ship does not go and pick up those weapons and deliver them, because these are the weapons killing thousands of Palestinians.”

Demonstrators at a sit-in outside a police blockade at the Port of Oakland where the Cape Orlando was bound for Tacoma to bring weapons to Israel. | Krista Chan / PW

Picketing actions are not a new occurrence at the Port of Oakland. Talking with People’s World, Prabhakar described several demonstrations that have been undertaken in recent years by the Oakland community and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

“In 2021, Oakland community members and the ILWU were able to successfully stop the ZIM ship, an Israeli Zionist ship, from leaving the port of Oakland,” Prabhakar said.

That action was led by the AROC as part of a weeklong “Block the Boat” campaign to raise awareness of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. ZIM is an Israeli cargo company whose roots go back to shipments that aided in the founding of the State of Israel in the 1940s.

After the 2021 incident, ZIM decided to no longer dock its ships in Oakland. Repeating that success was the goal of the activists last week.

Wael Buhaissy, also with AROC, further elaborated on the steps that the group took:

“Early on, when the ship was about to move, a few of us took direct action, put our bodies on the line and got to the top of the ship. Things escalated, the police were called in. People were removed from the ship. As far as I know, nobody was arrested. I left that scene, came back, and found that police had blocked the area.”

After the police line was formed at approximately 10 a.m., two simultaneous sit-ins occurred by the dock and on the other side of the officers.

Demonstrators shouted chants of, “Down, down with occupation! Up, up with liberation!” to the sound of loudspeakers and drumming. Organizers passed water and cough drops across the police blockade to demonstrators who were occupying the dock area directly adjacent to the ship.

“We don’t accept that weapons move out of here in our city to go kill our families and more brown people,” Buhaissy explained when discussing his motives for participating with People’s World.

Two Palestinian demonstrators demonstrators were detained by U.S. Coast Guard personnel after they locked themselves to a ladder leading up to the Cape Orlando to delay its departure. | Ray Chavez / Bay Area News Group via AP

“I have family that are in unbearable situations. I’ve lost cousins and nephews already. My cousin’s son who was killed two weeks ago is still under the rubble,” Buhaissy said.

Turning to the Biden administration’s role, Buhaissy said: “We feel frustrated that we live in a country where our government pays money with our tax dollars to continue to fund a fascist military like Israel’s. And we feel they’re not just complicit—they’re actually the biggest enabler.”

Daryanna Lancet of Jewish Voice for Peace offered their perspective on why they showed up at the action: “The Israeli government was founded on anti-Semitism and colonialism, and it doesn’t keep Jewish people safe. There’s a rise in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia right now because of what is going on.”

Lancet argued that “conflation of Judaism and Zionism actively makes everyone more unsafe, especially Jewish people. There’s genocide going on, period.”

At approximately 3:04 p.m., AROC announced via social media, “The military ship has left the port of Oakland and is heading to Tacoma, where organizers and community members are preparing to Block the Boat. Oakland delayed it for nine hours! We’ll see you in Tacoma to put an end to its voyage!”

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Krista Chan
Krista Chan

Krista Chan resides in Oakland, California, where she is a member of the Nitty Gritty Club.