OAKLAND -- About 500 protesters marched from the West Oakland BART station to the Oakland Port Saturday afternoon in what they called a victorious attempt to prevent an Israeli ship from unloading cargo.
"We successfully blocked one of the most prominent shipping companies out of the state of Israel from docking in the Port of Oakland," said Reem Assil, of the San Francisco-based Arab Resource Organizing Center, which coordinated the protest and rally with about 70 other groups. "We are really proud of this victory."
Members of the group, which included many people carrying signs and chanting, said they organized to block the Israeli-owned ZIM Lines ship from unloading cargo at the port's Berth 57 as a way to protest Israel's recent attack on Gaza and its occupation of Palestine. Protesters encouraged activists in other cities to hold similar protests as part of an international movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.
The crowd chanted, "From Ferguson to Palestine, police brutality is a crime."
Longshoreman Clarence Thomas said people around the country and world are starting to unify around the theme of resistance.
"The people in Ferguson are now related to people in Gaza," he said. "Isn't it ironic that a ship from ZIM can come here to be unloaded, but it has been four years since a ship has been unloaded in Gaza? This must be repeated elsewhere."
The picket was in response to a call by the Palestinian General Federation Trade Union for action against Israeli occupation in support of Gaza residents, according to a news release by protest organizers, which acknowledged that Israel has said it is acting in self-defense.
A spokesperson from the Israeli consulate could not be reached late Saturday afternoon for comment about the protest.
Monadel Herzallah, a Palestinian with family in Gaza, asked those in the crowd to raise their hands if this was their first time trying to block a boat. Most people's hands shot up.
"We will continue to block the boats," he said. "We want to hold people responsible for killing human beings and the genocide that has taken place against the people of Gaza."
Maria Lourdes Nocedal, who teaches fourth grade in San Francisco, said she plans to educate her students about what is going on in Gaza.
"Innocent people are dying," she said. "The empathy movement is starting now."
She then led the crowd in a Tagalog chant, which translated in English, meant: "Dare to struggle. Don't be afraid."
Port spokeswoman Marilyn Sandifur confirmed the ship didn't arrive at the port Saturday, but couldn't confirm the protest had anything to do with that.
Oakland Police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said there were no arrests, citations or confrontations with protesters.
"The Oakland Police Department supports people's right to freedom of speech," she said. "We follow our crowd control policy and other laws to respond in an ethical and constitutional manner."
Police formed a line in front of the entrance to Berth 57 to prevent anyone from entering the property. Protesters rallied outside, with several members of the crowd making Pro-Palestinian speeches and linking violence in Gaza to police violence against people of color in Ferguson, Missouri -- where protests this week over the killing of an unarmed black youth have sometimes turned violent -- as well as in Oakland and other parts of the country.