A Brief History of Block the Boat, Oakland: Organization, Planning, Autonomy, Spontaneity Combine for a Spectacular Direct Action at the Port

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Emily Loftis/MintPress

From Hyphenated Republic

In August, 2014, an ad hoc coalition and ever-changing group of autonomous activists prevented the Zim Piraeus from offloading it’s good for four days and caused subsequent entanglements that prevented the vast majority of its cargo from touching dry Oakland land. Much has already been said about the relationship between labor and the BTB coaltion that was necessary for such a monumental win. I would like to speak of another hand in hand relationship that received less attention or press, but was just as important, and perhaps even more so, to the final impact of the Block the Boat coalition’s unprecedented victory in Oakland.

That relationship between organizations in the Bay Area organizing scene that comprised the Block the Boat coalition and action taken through existing solidarity networks and individuals, acting autonomously. To understand the remarkable victory of Block the Boat, Oakland, one has to first trace the line of this uneasy partnership, and the incredible feedback loop it unintentionally unleashed, amping the Block the Boat signal higher and higher towards success*.

Block the Boat Begins

2014’s Block the Boat began at the end of an otherwise dreary pro-Palestinian [and pro-Immigrant] rally, with an uncharacteristically high, and thus, indicative, turn-out of about 100 people marching listlessly in a circle in front of the Federal Building in Oakland. At the end of the action, a call was made by some organizers to create an ad hoc assembly to discuss the possibility of blockading a Zim shipping lines ship. From the outset, the assembly made it clear that they sought to emulate the successful action by a coalition of labor and social justice groups in 2010 which blockaded a Zim ship for two work shifts as protest against the Mavi Marmara atrocity. Zim, an iconic Israeli company with ownership, voting and vetoing power vested in the state itself, was seen as a perfect BDS target–emphasis on the S for sanction, especially for those at the assembly who wanted to bring BDS further into the direct action sphere. The atmosphere was charged with anger and sadness about the shocking death toll in Gaza at Israeli military hands, the sense of urgency was palpable.

Read the entire piece here.

 

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