OAKLAND : Activists opposed to Israel’s war against Hamas temporarily blocked a U.S. military vessel from departing the dock at the Port of Oakland Friday, believing it was set to pick up weapons and supplies destined for Israel.
The vessel, the MS Cape Orlando, is part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet, which is kept on standby to support Department of Defense operations.
The “Block the Boat” protest was organized by the S.F.-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) and supported by the East Bay-based anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace. The action drew protesters to the port starting at 6:45 a.m., according to a Port of Oakland spokesperson, and continued for the next eight or nine hours until the ship finally departed.
“Three protestors locked themselves to the ladder leading onto the ship contributing heavily to the delay of the ship,” according to an AROC press release.
The ship left port with the three protesters still on board, Coast Guard Petty Officer Hunter Schnabel told J. They were transferred to a different vessel to be returned to shore, where they were released. All three remain under investigation, Schnabel said.
Throughout the morning and afternoon, people held Palestinian flags, beat drums and chanted rally cries including “Long live the intifada” and “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” according to videos shared widely across social media.
We were there to voice our opposition to the administration’s support to this genocide in Gaza.
The protests at the Oakland port go as far back as 2010. One action in 2021 succeeded after longshoremen refused to unload a Zim container ship, while in 2014 protesters were thwarted when the ship seemingly left the port only to return later after people had gone home.
Sarah, 53, who described herself as an anti-Zionist Jewish activist, spent the entire day at the port. Out of concern for her security, she declined to provide her last name to J.
“The Biden-Harris administration has committed to providing additional military aid and political support to Israel and has refused to demand a cease-fire,” Sarah said. “We were there to voice our opposition to the administration’s support to this genocide in Gaza and demand a cease-fire now.” She added that she believed the ship was going to be loaded in Washington state with “an arsenal” of weapons intended for Israel’s military.
AROC, which supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel and organized the student walkout for Gaza on Oct. 17, stated in a press release that “confidential sources at the port say that the vessel will be loaded with weapons and military equipment in Tacoma, with a final destination in Israel.”
Federal authorities were not immediately reachable to confirm the vessel’s purpose or path, and vessel tracking sites did not include the Cape Orlando’s route. The Port of Tacoma did not immediately respond to J.’s request for information.
“Whether or not they choose to load this ship and send those weapons,” Sarah said, “it is still true that the U.S. is pouring billions into supporting Israel’s ability to carry out this massacre in Gaza.”