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Tampa Palestine solidarity protest delays unloading of Israeli ship

By Gage Lacharite

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Tampa, FL – 70 Palestine solidarity activists filed into the intersection of Maritime and 20th Street here to protest the docking of the ZIM Alabama, a container ship carrying Israeli goods. The Tampa Port Authority was woken early in the morning of Sept. 21 by protesters opposing the importation of Israeli goods. Israeli companies super-exploit Palestinian labor, paying very low wages.

Protesters were hoping to catch the attention of dockworkers arriving for work. Some members of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1402 waved and honked in support.

“It was really great to see dockworkers showing interest and support for our cause. There was a real sense of solidarity from the workers themselves,” said Caroline England, a member of Tampa Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

After gathering at the intersection, protesters marched to the port itself. Upon approaching the security checkpoint at the port, police surrounded the protesters, attempting to cut them off from both the port and incoming workers. Police threatened to arrest a Palestinian American woman. However fellow protesters were able to get the police to back off. The rally continued until 8:00 a.m., when it was announced that International Longshoremen’s Association workers would not be entering the port until 1:00 p.m. due to an unspecified delay. Protesters retreated in order to rest and organize reinforcements for later.

The protesters gathered again at noon with a larger crowd than the morning. They conducted another march on the port, slowing traffic that was attempting to enter. Police stood by as protesters entered the port and protested the docking of the ZIM Alabama from Israel.

The action is part of the Block the Boat movement to place economic pressure on Israel to stop killing and oppressing Palestinians. There is a growing movement of students participating in the Boycott, Divest And Sanction (BDS) campaign.

Sam Beutler of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of South Florida said, “Every little action on our part counts. The BDS movement was integral to the destruction of the South African Apartheid regime and can play a similar role in dealing with Israeli apartheid today – whether it be not buying Sabra hummus, HP computers, or attempting to stop a boat containing Israeli goods from docking. Each action moves towards the ending of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”

This is the second protest of the ZIM Alabama in Tamp; there was another Aug. 30. Another Block the Boat rally is being organized to oppose the return of the ZIM Alabama.

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