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As part of the global movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Apartheid Israel, the Block the Boat movement has emerged to engage in peaceful direct action to stop the unloading of Israeli ships and cargo. A recent BtB campaign in the San Francisco Bay Area led to the ship leaving port without having been unloaded. At the Port of Seattle, Falastiniyat, a Palestinian feminist collective, has led the struggle to block the unloading of ZIM San Diego, starting with a mass picket at 6 am on June 13. No longshoremen crossed the community picket. Only a violent police attack was able to force the unloading of the boat some five days later.
After June 13, the ZIM San Diego sat at the dock and no crews were called to work the ship until June 17. Another peaceful picket was called for the afternoon of June 17, but this time, the Seattle Police Department came out in full force to crush it. Protesters arrived in the Port at about 4:00 PM, and began picketing in the intersection, chanting pro-Palestine slogans. Several trucks approached, but when they saw the picket, they turned around.
At around 5:00 pm, the SPD arrived at the picket line. The police repeatedly threatened protesters with arrest for an illegal gathering, while organizers countered explaining why the protest was completely lawful. Around 6:30 pm, police attacked with bikes, hitting several protesters and knocking them over.
Liberation News witnessed one small woman hit by a police bike. Police lifted her backpack to put handcuffs on her while grabbing and pulling her hair. One of our reporters also observed another protester who was knocked unconscious by police. The police proceeded to spend the next three minutes arresting his unconscious body, and carrying him to their van. A total of 11 people were arrested and released.
Jamie Shepard, one of the Liberation News reporters contributing to this article, was nearly arrested. Shepard was grabbed under the armpits and lifted up by police while sitting on the ground after several arrests had already occurred and was thrown back into a thicker part of the crowd, then shoved again by another officer.
Wassim Hage, press coordinator for Arab Resource and Organizing Center told Liberation News: “It is clear to us that ZIM is extremely desperate. No workers crossed our picket line and ZIM was asked to leave by SSA Marine Corp. Although the ship was unloaded, we consider it a huge victory. We were able to stop it from being unloaded for five days.”
“It’s telling that this corporation would rely on police violence to suppress a peaceful picket protesting against Israeli apartheid. These actions are clear attempts at intimidating our community that is standing up for human rights in Palestine and everywhere. We will never stop fighting against Israeli apartheid, from Seattle to Jerusalem,” said Falastiniyat organizer Aisha Mansour.
The struggle to block ZIM San Diego has had a great impact on the larger BDS movement in the Seattle area. As the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco put pressure on the Port of Seattle Commissioners and other elected officials, a number of officials signed a letter in support of the right of free speech for BtB protesters.
On June 14, a picket organized by the Seattle Democratic Socialists of America Anti-Imperialist Caucus at a supermarket in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle garnered community support for BDS. On June 15, the Seattle Education Association passed a resolution endorsing BDS and demanding an end to collaboration between the Seattle Police Department and Israeli military. (Mondoweiss)