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Protesters march on Port NOLA administration

By Serena Sojic-Borne

Protesters march down Convention Center Boulevard in New Orleans. | Fight Back! News/Manny Urban

New Orleans, LA – At noon on November 16, over 100 protesters gathered at Lafayette Square to protest the Port of New Orleans’ support of Israel. The activists demanded an end to all aid to Israel, including a technological trade agreement called the “innovation embassy.”

The event began with speeches at the park, and then followed with a march down Convention Center Boulevard to the port administration building. The newly formed NOSHIP (New Orleans Stop Helping Israel’s Ports) called the event.

Although protesters planned to provide public comments at the meeting, they ran into some obstacles.

Energy was high as protesters gathered at the park. “‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ means prosecuting all war criminals for massacres committed since 1948,” said speaker Islam Elrabieey, a visiting professor at Tulane University and member of Tulane4Palestine.

“I went to sleep last night with images in my head of a destroyed UN refugee center in Gaza,” said a member of NOSHIP. “I went to sleep with no words left to say. But for those people and 2 million others, I woke up with a few. Our demands are simple. New Orleans must end further aid to Israel, cut trade ties to Israel, halt plans for an ‘innovation embassy’ with Israel, and stop penalizing people and businesses who rightfully boycott Israel.”

Organizers announced that the march would begin at 12:30 p.m., to arrive at the port meeting early and have protesters fill out public comment forms. The meeting, set to begin at 1:30, took place a 45-minute walk away. Right on schedule, marchers began lining the street behind a pickup truck, used to help clear the road. But when protesters hit the pavement, NOPD officer and Police Association President Michael Glasser told them to put away the truck.

“We talked for 20 minutes, and when I finally said ‘fine’ to not using the truck, Glasser let us use it anyway,” said one organizer, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation to her immigration status.

As they marched, protesters chanted “End the aid, stop the trade!” and “Not another penny, not another dollar, no more money for Israel’s slaughter!”

The march arrived at the administration building late. Protesters entered and began to fill public comment cards. About a dozen Louisiana State Police officers stood inside. The port employee behind the comment desk laid out about 20 pens and more forms in expectation of the crowd. “We are ready to accommodate everyone,” she announced.

But when protesters entered the nearly empty meeting room at 1:45p.m., the board announced that the meeting was “adjourned” after barely 15 minutes. That morning, the port released a statement reading “the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans respects the First Amendment rights of community members and welcomes appropriate public comment.”

Activists chanted “Let us speak!” and then “Shame on you!” at port officials as they exited. They then packed the main lobby. “End the trade, stop the aid!” rang through the building. After Louisiana State Police officers threatened use of force and arrest, protesters slowly left the building while chanting. They made their public comments from outside.

“They can shut us out today, but this is a campaign, and we’re gonna keep coming back to these port meetings,” said Shreyas Vasudevan, an organizer with NOSHIP.

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