Port of Tacoma, WA – August 23, 2014: About 200 demonstrators from all over the State of Washington observed an international Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) campaign with picket lines at several port entrances in Tacoma on Saturday.
Over the course of the day and into the evening, the picket lines were charged by vehicles and a motorcycle driven by coordinated thugs over seven times.
During one incident, a thug in a black vehicle got out and began to assault non-violent demonstrators on the picket line at the Evergreen entrance. Tacoma police intervened, and one demonstrator who went limp on the picket line was arrested.
Just one half-hour later, another thug in a white truck charged the picket line at the Washington United Terminals (WUT) port entrance, got out of his truck and began to physically assault the demonstrators he had plowed with his truck. The man left when he was denied entry by the gate security guard but threatened to come back with a weapon.
Almost immediately afterwards, the picket line was charged by a motorcycle who zoomed between demonstrators. He was also denied entry by the gate security guard. The man on the motorcycle claimed to belong to a union, and said that he supported Israel and that was why he was not recognizing the picket line.
After these incidents, due to the efforts of local solidarity networks, four union longshoremen from the Tacoma Port chose to observe the picket line at the WUT entrance in order to prevent any further violence. These four men bravely stood in defiance of the morning shift’s union local vote not to recognize the picket line at the Port of Tacoma.
Meanwhile, three cranes began to operate within the enclosed port. Unloading the Zim Chicago.
The Picket Lines
The people who held the picket lines on Saturday came from all parts of the world, and from across the state of Washington. There was a large brigade of filipino’s who helped hold down the picket line during the morning shift (see: Why Block the Boat?: Resistance from Ferguson to Palestine to the Philippines). There were also people who drove from as far away as Spokane, down the I-5 from Olympia and as far north as Bellingham, WA. There were people from Palestine, people from Mexico, and many of the demonstrators, including the young man who was arrested were of Jewish heritage. There were people of all ages, all genders, and all walks of life.
After the violence of the picket line attacks subsided, the energy of the picket lines picked up and was jovial. After a while dancing spontaneously erupted on the line to the tune of Son Jarocho music with lyrics about the port, the picket line, Palestine, and no borders.
Several college students came from all sorts of universities, representatives and brigades from social justice organizations including Bayan, Got Green?, Gabriela, Anakbayan, Community to Community and many other organizations observed the picket line. There were also rank and file members of various labor unions, UAW, IWW and others along with artists, musicians, and people from all walks of life and counter cultures.
Trucker’s honked for the picket line as they passed to show their support. A couple from Spokane participated in the picket line, they had come with a handsewn palestinian flag and a large overhead banners calling for an end to the siege in the Gaza Strip. Across the street, three counter-protestors waved U.S. flags and held signs about Christianity and Patriotism.
A local Palestinian family chose to support the action by observing the picket line. The family was interested in knowing about the folks who were observing the boycott and took the opportunity to chat with all of the protesters. Informal conversations happened, some were about old friends, others were more political, about the meaning of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) flag in the demonstration. Some of the demonstrators were adherents of the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona and explained the network of common struggles occurring within the North American Hemisphere for indigenous autonomy and self-determination. Earlier in the summer the EZLN, who recently faced state repression by Israeli trained paramilitaries where a hospital and school were razed and a teacher was murdered in the Autonomous Zapatista Municipality of La Realidad, had demonstrated solidarity with the people of Gaza and Palestine who also faced colonial wars for the corporate interests of neo-liberal capitalism, what the EZLN refers to as neo-liberal mega-projects of death by bad governments.
The discussion did not stop with the link between Mexico and Palestine. The recent brutality by an Israeli trained militarized police force against United States citizens in Ferguson, Missouri following the murder of Mike Brown recently was also on the minds of many of the demonstrators. Though a simultaneous demonstration for the community of Ferguson and against the brutality of the Seattle Police Department in downtown Seattle was occurring at the same time that a young man was being arrested at the Tacoma ports, demonstrators at the Tacoma ports held signs linking the struggles.
A Shift in American Working Class Consciousness and Solidarity
Though it was more profitable for corporate media to withhold any coverage of the boycott and picket lines and as local media claimed that the picket line against the Zim Lines was insignificant, the very fact that four major ports along the west coast were shut down simultaneously is unprecedented.
Two ports (Oakland and Long Beach) were shut down with overwhelming support from ILWU rank and file longshoremen, and a contested front at the Tacoma port where some longshoremen observed and others did not, was still able to delay the unloading of the Zim Chicago in Tacoma, and later at the port of Seattle (See: Seattle Activists block an entrance to the port of Seattle).
In the case of the Tacoma Port, it appeared that the thugs who attacked the picket lines, even after some of the workers who had crossed the picket line had begun working the cranes, had been prepared with pro-Israeli talking points. The attacks on the multiple picket lines were also coordinated which suggests premeditation on behalf of the thugs. It is important to note that none of the thugs were arrested by the police, even after they had assaulted several non-violent protesters, including the young man who was arrested by the Tacoma Police Department for going limp. In the Seattle demonstration on the 25th of August, another arrest was made by Seattle Police Department after the SPD knocked the protester off of their bicycle. It is telling that the corporate media did not cover the port blockades until the arrests had been made. Early on in this non-violent campaign, Facebook also censored the event pages for the action. It appears that now, in the United States as much as in Chiapas, Mexico and Gaza, Palestine, and even Ferguson, Missouri it has become necessary for independent media to take the lead in documenting, analyzing and narrating the movements as they occur.
The success of the Coastal Port Action is very telling of the long-term and deep organizing that has been taking place since the previous port shut downs during Occupy demonstrations in Seattle, Los Angeles and Oakland in 2011. Originally a tactic organized by longshoremen as a strike against South African Apartheid at the Port of San Francisco in 1984, the port blockade has emerged as a powerful working class weapon against corporate interests in a market where time is money and bad publicity lowers the market value of products, and exposes the power of workers around the world.