Demonstrations against weapons shipments from Tacoma
Protesters block US military ship allegedly carrying weapons for Israel
The demonstrations in Tacoma, Washington, are the second to greet the supply ship, after similar protests in California.
By Hilary Beaumont
Under dark skies and steady rain, hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators rallied at the Port of Tacoma, in Washington state, to block a military supply vessel they believe will carry weapons from the United States to Israel.
There, they fear any weaponry on board will be used in Israel’s ongoing campaign against the Gaza Strip, where more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed.
“We want a ceasefire now. We want people to stop getting murdered now. We want a real examination and action on US foreign policy and US funding to Israel,” said Wassim Hage, one of the protesters at the Tacoma rally.
Hage works as a case manager and community outreach coordinator with the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), the advocacy group that organised the protests.
He said a confidential source tipped AROC off that the vessel would be loaded with weapons and military equipment and sent to Israel, as it continues its military offensive in Gaza.
Al Jazeera could not immediately confirm that allegation. In an email to the publication, Jeff Jurgensen, a Pentagon spokesperson, said that the ship was indeed used to support the “movement of US military cargo”.
But he declined to offer further information. “Due to operational security, the [US Department of Defense] does not provide further transportation, movement details or information regarding the cargo embarked on these vessels,” he wrote.
Protesters form a line across a rain-slick road leading to a port. They hold up three large banners. "From the river to the sea," one reads. Another reads, "No aid for Israel."
Protesters at the Port of Tacoma decorate their banners with watermelon slices, a symbol meant to evoke the colours of the Palestinian flag [Courtesy of the Arab Resources and Organizing Center]
Second protest for vessel
In Tacoma, the ship, called the Cape Orlando, faced protesters of all ages in raincoats, puffer jackets and umbrellas marching outside its dock.
They waved the Palestinian flag, held signs saying “Defend Gaza” and chanted slogans like “Free Palestine” and “Not another nickel, not another dime, no more money for Israel’s crimes!”
Demonstrators used bicycles and cars, with their hazard lights blinking, to block traffic around the port. Seven Indigenous warriors in a ceremonial canoe also circled the waters nearby to block the ship.
Patricia Gonzalez from the Water Warriors Council of the Puyallup Tribe said she was motivated to take to the sea because she relates to the Palestinians’ history with violence and displacement.
Her ancestors, she explained, were forced to attend Indigenous boarding schools, institutions designed to extinguish native cultures. The Canadian government and even Pope Francis have called the schools instruments of “cultural genocide”.
Gonzalez said her community is still grappling with the intergenerational trauma of that history. “When it comes to genocide, we definitely understand that,” she said.
“It touches our hearts really close,” Gonzalez said. “Our ancestors went through that, and we’re affected by it every single day. And we would never wish that upon another nation.”
Protesters weave around a blockade of cars, SUVs and trucks at the Port of Tacoma.
Cars help block the Port of Tacoma in Washington state in a protest against US weapons being sent to Israel [Lindsey Wasson/AP Photo]
Abby Brook, who is Jewish and anti-Zionist, helped organise Monday’s rally. Her visits to Israel and occupied territories in the West Bank and the Golan Heights inspired her activism.
“When I was 18, I went to Palestine, and I saw the realities of the occupation and settler colonialism on the ground. I saw the checkpoints, I saw and talked to people about their experience of being displaced in the Nakba,” she said, using the term for the mass displacement of Palestinians in 1948.
“When you’re seeing the reality that Palestinians live every day, there’s no question about what’s happening,” she said. “And the reality that this is an apartheid state military occupation.”
She said a broad spectrum of people attended the “block the boat” rally to interrupt the violence in Gaza. “People wanted an opportunity to literally put themselves in the way of the genocide that’s ongoing.”
This is the second week in a row that the Cape Orlando has faced attempts to scuttle its voyage.