Up to 500 people staged a snap protest at Port Botany in Sydney last night, significantly disrupting the Calandra owned by the Israeli shipping company, Zim.
Twenty-three people were arrested after they defied police orders to clear the port entrance to allow the late shift in to work on the Calandra.
The protest to “block the boat” was called by Unionists for Palestine and Palestine Justice Movement Sydney after triggering a rapid response text message list after the Calandra docked in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Protesters marched from the boat ramp and sat down on the road leading into the terminal where the ship was docked. One of the Hutchison MUA delegates spoke to the protesters. Paul Keating, Secretary of the MUA Sydney branch, also addressed the crowd offering the union’s support for the protest.
After about an hour, riot squad and mounted police moved violently against the crowd. Police punched, tackled and kicked protesters as they violently cleared the road.
One protester’s shirt was ripped and several were punched in the head. One child had to be lifted over the crowd to safety. Some of those arrested were charged with disrupting the use of a “major facility” under the NSW anti-protest laws introduced last year, which can attract maximum penalties of $22,000 or two years’ jail.
Police has been stationed on the wharf all day Tuesday, and trucks delivering for the Calandra had been told not to enter the port terminal in Sydney on Tuesday and Wednesday to avoid protests.
Zim fact sheets had been distributed inside the dock and the afternoon shift was prepared for the action in case there was disruption from the protest. On the night, all truck slots at 8pm and 9pm were cancelled, while earlier trucks used the emergency exit at the separate Patrick terminal to bypass the protest.
The protest sent the Palestinian dish Maqluba into the night shift as a solidarity gesture.
The attempt to “block the boat” was the second protest against Zim shipping at Port Botany in Sydney. A 1000-strong protest on 11 November, when the company had changed its schedule, laid the ground for the “rapid response” on the 21st and helped build awareness and support among wharfies on the dock.
The protests in Sydney and earlier in Melbourne have forced costly delays onto the Israeli shipping line. The Calandra was stuck at sea for days trying to avoid a protest in Melbourne on 8 November, which blocked trucks carrying Zim containers. It didn’t dock in Sydney until almost two weeks later, drifting and sitting out at anchor in an attempt to dodge further action.
In Sydney, one of the Calandra crew told wharfies that the ship’s captain had said he wanted to avoid protests and wanted to get out of Port Botany as soon as possible.
These disruptions are a major win for the campaign to impose Boycott Divestment and Sanctions on Israel, and for building union action in solidarity with Palestine. Workers in Spain, Italy and Belgium have also taken action against ships and planes transporting arms to Israel.
Disgracefully, Home Affairs Minister Claire O’Neil has viciously attacked the Sydney protest, ridiculously claiming that it was protesters who “targeted violence at police” and saying the protest against the ongoing massacres in Gaza was “utterly despicable”.
Zim is deeply implicated in Israel’s war crimes and occupation, including the current genocide in Gaza. The company immediately offered all its ships and infrastructure to serve the “national needs of Israel” when the current war began.
It is Israel’s oldest shipping line and has transported weapons including white phosphorous, which Israel uses against civilian areas in contravention of international law. Its commercial shipping operation regularly docks at Australian ports.
With more than 14,000 Palestinians killed and Israel preparing to further expand its assault into the south of Gaza more action is needed to oppose Israel’s genocidal war.
We need to keep building for even larger numbers at the rallies. We need stronger union action to target and build the boycott of Israeli companies, weapons manufacturers, to stop the bombing and break all ties with Israel.