Palestinian rights group will try again Saturday to block Israeli ship in Tampa

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A local group supporting the rights of Palestinians is holding its third major action at Port Tampa Bay beginning at 6:00 a.m. Saturday.

Block the Boat Tampa is drawing attention to a boycott of companies from Israel by picketing a ship from the Zim shipping company, which will attempt to unload cargo tomorrow.

Friday morning I spoke with Dezeray Lyn with Block the Boat Tampa about how dockworkers are responding to their protest.

Palestinian rights group will try again Saturday to block Israeli ship in Tampa

“The Zim Alabama container ship that’s Israeli-owned is going to be docking at the port of Tampa to offload goods. We’re holding a picket line there, asking to the longshoremen of 1402 who would be unloading the ship, to respect our picket line and hold some sort of a delay in solidarity with the people of Palestine and with the Palestinian dockworkers who can’t work because of the blockades of the seaport there.”

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And this is the third time your group has been there when the Alabama is arriving. What happened in the first and second times?

“The first time we’d only had five days to prepare; we were very new; the movement was only a few months old. But the second time was radically different: there were seventy people there; we marched inside the port; we held a moving, drumming, singing, chanting picket line. There was an unspecified delay that I can’t even speculate on. But, this time, we’re hoping to be out there with more numbers. We’re going to have people that have people that are constructing an “apartheid wall” that’s going to be present there. We’re going to have lots of different organizations represented, lots of people there, supporting, the ILA 1402 and asking them to work in solidarity with us; a lot of us were labor activists.”

The International Longshoremen’s union that is in Port Tampa Bay?

“Yeah.”

You mentioned the “apartheid wall” that people in the community are building, tell us about that.

“Brice Adams is an amazing labor leader and organizer; he is from the local 1291 up in Philadelphia; his comments to me in organizing together was: “You have to put the blood on the boat.” We want to connect apartheid, the institutionalized racism that’s happening in Israel, with the Palestinian people there. We want to connect the dots between that Israeli-owned ship, that company that’s directly funding massacres and occupation in Palestine, from Gaza to the West Bank, with our picket — what’s happening there. So building the apartheid wall is a visual representation of the separation that’s happening there; of the occupation, of the oppression of the Palestinian population. And so we need to figuratively put the blood on the boat and that’s one of the ways we’re trying to do that.”

You have had some relations with the union there. You have been communicating with them. What’s that process been like and where are they right now in your negotiations?

“As a labor activist for thirteen years, I understand sacrifice and what the rank-and-file would have to sacrifice in order to participate in this action. We have been here every morning delivering letters from community organizers, labor leaders, from Clarence Thomas — the ILU Local 10, who recorded a ten-minute message from the ground of the Port of Oakland. We have been communicating with them and building relationships with them and we understand their sacrifice and they understand what we are asking of them. And today, this morning when we were there, the vice-president came out and shook my hand and said, “I haven’t listened to you until today and I haven’t considered it until this moment.” So we are hoping that our persistence, our passion and the suffering of the people of Gaza is getting to them and reaching them. And we know that they want to do something but they have their families to consider, too, and that’s why we’ve worked it down to a delay in solidarity with the people of Palestine.”

He hadn’t been listening until today, but you told me earlier he kind of, is maybe having a change of heart?

“I feel like he may be. You know, the very first thing we can all do is to admit that occupation and massacre is wrong. That 577 children murdered over the summer is an atrocity. And that we are all shouldering the moral burden for the world that’s ignoring it. The global leadership is doing nothing to hold Israel accountable. The very first thing we can do is to admit that that’s wrong. So, the more we are out there, giving information, letting them know what’s going on and communicating and negotiating with them on what we can do to hold Israel accountable, in our own way, I think the more they are understanding. Like you know, it may be worth it as a sacrifice but all the best victories in history have been hard-fought battles — and this is one of them.”

So, you think that tomorrow there might be larger numbers of protesters than the previous two actions; you also think that there might be a possibility you may get a one-hour delay from the dockworkers?

“Yeah, my hope is that we will give them the picket line they won’t want to cross. The world is watching this story; the world is watching on the West Coast and every one of these actions that springs up, the world’s eyes are on that port. The ILA 1402 is going to make history, one way or another. One of our organizers said, “Which side of the picket line will be you on? You know, what will you tell your children?” When this goes down in history as another action as another social action against apartheid, this is something, a direct strike we can take. And we are hoping that they’ll see the strength of their action and the meaning, the symbolism of what they would be doing.

“Based on my conversation and the look the (union) vice-president gave me and the conversations I have held with the rank-and-file members inside the union hall, I have a strong hope, a strong inspiration, that they may honor the picket line.”

And finally, I want to ask you about a comment made by the president of the Zionist Organization of America. He wrote to the Jerusalem Post saying the “block the boat” protesters should be arrested because they are threatening the dockworkers and so forth. How do respond to that?

“I think it’s a validation of everything that Block the Boat is doing, of all the results that they’re producing there. And the president of the Zionist Organization wouldn’t be writing and condemning the police department in Oakland if they weren’t feeling the heat from what’s happening. The fact is that they are so used to operating with impunity and with no accountability, that now that people are actually standing up and taking effective action against them and these economic strikes, these staggering acts of solidarity with the people of Palestine against them, now they don’t know what to do. Now, all they can do is write police and lie and say that protesters are threatening. One of our organizers was at that protest in Oakland; the longshoremen were out there with them speaking in solidarity, you know holding this inspiring action for the people that are suffering in Gaza now.”

“At the port tomorrow I can’t stress enough how important is it for everyone who cares about the people that are suffering in Palestine, in Gaza, to be out there. It’s at 6 a.m., it’s early. But this is something direct where we can see the results of this action and we need everyone who cares about this struggle, to be out there at the Port tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. We’re holding just as peaceful a protest as they are in Oakland and Vancouver and Tacoma and Seattle and we’re just hoping to have a large picket line, a large show of solidarity.”

Here are some previous WMNF News stories on Block the Boat Tampa

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