By Rob Carson/The News Tribune
Pro-Palestinian activists blocked two entrances to a Port of Tacoma terminal Saturday morning, but were unable to prevent an Israeli cargo ship from being unloaded as they had hoped.
About 100 people opposed to Israel’s military action in Gaza formed picket lines outside Washington United Terminals gates on Port of Tacoma Road shortly after 7 a.m., in an attempt to keep longshore workers from unloading the vessel Chicago, owned by the Israeli company, Zim Integrated Shipping Services.
Instead, longshore workers were taken to the terminal by an alternate route and began their shift as usual.
“We’re not going to talk about how they got in,” said Tara Mattina, a Port of Tacoma spokeswoman. “The ship did come in as expected, and the longshore workers started working at 8 a.m.”
Mattina said the Israeli-owned ship arrived in Commencement Bay on Friday night and entered the terminal on the Blair Waterway early Saturday. The Chicago is carrying consumer goods from Asia, she said, and is expected to be in port for two days.
Last week, pro-Palestinian protesters in California kept another Zim ship from being unloaded at the Port of Oakland for four days.
Protest leaders said they will continue to try to disrupt the Zim ship from unloading while it is in Tacoma.
“This is a deliberate protest, not a symbolic protest,” said Mara Willaford of Seattle. “We will be here until the boat leaves. We don’t know how long that will be, but we’ll be here as long as it takes.”
Willaford said she and other protesters are trying to pressure Israel to end its military action in Gaza. “We want them to end the siege in Gaza and, in particular, allow them to open up and let Gaza use its port.”
Protesters chanted “Occupation is a crime,” and “We are the people. We want justice for all Palestine.”
Tacoma police kept their distance Saturday morning, but they set up a roadblock on the Port of Tacoma Road for about 45 minutes, allowing access only to port workers with identification. Port security officers refused to allow parking in the vicinity, threatening to tow cars along Marshall Avenue and Port of Tacoma Road.
“It’s definitely harassment,” said Jess Kincaid of Portland. “If we were business owners here to negotiate something, I’m sure they wouldn’t be threatening to tow our cars.”
Zim ships make more than 150 calls at the Port of Tacoma each year, Mattina said.