Hundreds of pro-Palestine activists calling for a ceasefire in Gaza blocked the entrance to the Port of Tacoma on Monday in protest of a U.S. military supply vessel allegedly bound for Israel.
According to the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which operates the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle, the MV Cape Orlando left the port Monday evening.
More from Sourcing Journal
As of Tuesday morning, port operations have returned to normal, the Alliance confirmed to Sourcing Journal.
Protesters believed the MV Cape Orlando was transporting military equipment and weapons to Israel amid the war with Palestine in the Middle East.
The 635-foot vessel is part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet and has been used in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, supporting the rapid deployment of U.S. military forces worldwide. It primarily facilitates the transportation of Army and Marine Corps unit equipment, combat support equipment and initial resupply during surge periods.
Due to operational security measures, the Department of Defense declined to provide further transportation, movement details or information regarding the vessel’s current cargo.
The demonstrations began at 5 a.m. on Monday. Protesters used vehicles to shut down roads and gates, forcing ship workers to turn around. According to several reports, some protestors tampered with mooring lines and climbed on the ship’s ladder, delaying its departure by several hours. Police were staged behind a fence at the terminal as the protest occurred.
Tacoma police confirmed that traffic was blocked entering the port due to the protest through the day. Officers were on scene to help direct traffic and ensure the continued safety of all community members. No arrests were made.
“Confidential sources say that the vessel will be loaded with weapons and military equipment in Tacoma, with a final destination in Israel,” the pro-Palestinian activist group Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) said in a statement prior to the protest. The group had urged its followers to join them in “blocking the boat” on social media.
— Louie Tran (@louie_tran) November 6, 2023
The ILWU had originally been scheduled to load the MV Cape Orlando between 7 and 8 a.m. on Monday, according to a schedule shared by local Real Change News reporter Guy Oron.
According to the local longshoreman’s union website, the vessel is scheduled to be worked at 7 and 8 am. pic.twitter.com/ZEoqovlxnA
— Guy Oron (@GuyOron) November 6, 2023
However, ILWU workers told BreakThrough News that dispatch told them Monday morning the ship would be loaded by military personnel already inside the terminal when the protest started.
As part of their contract, ILWU workers have a right not to work on any vessels that present health and safety concerns, such as those posed by a demonstration.
Sourcing Journal reached out to the ILWU for comment.
The protest lasted roughly 12 hours, with some people marching in circles, while others waved Palestinian flags and held signs that read “Free Palestine,” “No Aid for Israel,” “Ceasefire now” and “Resist Until Return.”
The MV Cape Orlando came to Tacoma from Oakland, Calif., where about 300 protesters delayed its departure for nine hours on Friday. Three people were detained for attempting to board the ship and tampering with mooring lines, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release. They were released on a pier in San Francisco, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Hunter Schnabel said Monday. He said investigations are ongoing against these individuals and others who had breached the federal maritime area.
In June 2021, protesters planned to block an Israeli cargo ship bound for Seattle from unloading cargo. The Zim San Diego, owned and operated by Israeli shipping company Zim, was scheduled to dock at Harbor Island when that demonstration took place. Seattle police arrested 10 people after that protest.
Protests have escalated since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7, after a terrorist attack killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, according to state officials. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry claims that at least 10,000 people have been killed in Gaza in the month since the conflict erupted.