A Handbook for blocking ships (Free Palestine Movement)


A Handbook for blocking ships

Following are some suggestions for actions of this type, based on our experience thus far.  No doubt others can offer more, so as to expand the group knowledge.  We are not including information of a confidential nature, but only that which law enforcement and port management can reasonably be expected to anticipate.

1.  Points of blockage.  Until now, no group has tried to prevent a ship from docking at the port, nor does this seems likely.  The gates to the berths, through which there is entrance and egress, seem to be the best points, with the intention of closing access for the workers.  Sometimes/often a berth is accessible from a neighboring berth although it may be forbidden to use such access in normal circumstances.  Leave no stone unturned.

2.  The workers.  There is no more important relationship than with the workers, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).  Intelligence from inside, and especially real time intelligence, from workers and other personnel, whether they are working the ship or doing another job, is immensely valuable.  If possible have off duty or former workers on the picket line.  They can provide invaluable advice and information.

The workers also have the most to lose.  Always remember that they are losing wages by not working.  Many probably have no opinion about our issue and are often forbidden by contract from acting on such opinion in any case.  However, they can refuse to work when the work site is in turmoil.  This is usually determined by a union arbiter when the workers are under contract.  Otherwise, it is sometimes left to the individual worker.

Workers may not have a position on our issue, but many are strongly averse to crossing a picket line.  Furthermore, if they are in contract negotiations or are dissatisfied with management, they may welcome a legitimate excuse to cooperate with a port slowdown.  Some picketers have suggested doing some fundraising to try to help offset the loss of wages, and to volunteer to help with worker issues.

Learn to recognize who is a worker and who is management or other staff.  This is usually by means of a union sticker on the car, a photo of which can be circulated to the picketers.  No one should cross a picket line, but this applies more to workers than to other personnel.

3.  Communication.  We have nothing to offer beyond the obvious.  A text alert system is an excellent way to mobilize volunteers on short notice, but you can be sure that the Israeli/Zionist hasbara trolls will sign up, as well as the law enforcement authorities.  The usual social media are also extremely useful, especially if information is being disseminated regularly.  Our reports, information and narrative need to grab as much of the public attention as possible.  It is good to cultivate press contacts and issue press reports, but the local MSM will be there anyway, if the story is even modestly compelling.

4.  The picket.  Obviously, the number of picketers is of paramount consideration.  No need to tell you how to form alliances.  Although the actions are local, ask your contacts across the country and across the world and especially in Palestine to push whomever they know to participate.  Provide shuttles and transportation where possible.  Parking is often not permitted in the port area, so shuttles can be important.  Keep up the picket on all shifts until the ship leaves, and be ready to return at a moment’s notice if the ship tries to return while you are not there.  Monitor ship movements on a site like www.marinetraffic.com.

Bicycles are also extremely valuable.  They can monitor all the gates and coordinate activity.  They can also be walked on the picket line, taking up space and making the line look bigger.  The same is true of signs, banners and flags, when the pickets are few.  Bullhorns also magnify the presence and are good for group communication.

Find out when the shift is and set up a good picket at least an hour earlier.  The picket needs to be loud and boisterous, especially when workers and their cars approach.  The purpose is to give a good reason not to cross the picket line.  However, if workers defy the line, we have to accept their choice.  It is not for us to put ourselves in their position.  

Maintain the picket until at least several hours into the shift, so that the workers are not called to come back when the picketers have left.  If workers manage to get past, it is sometimes useful to wait for them to break for lunch and then discourage them from returning.

You may wish to consider flyers for both the workers and the picketers.  Music and a live band are a great help.  Food and water is helpful, but many of us find it preferable to fast on the line so that less water is needed and there is less need to access toilet facilities, which may be distant.  Wear a hat and avoid overheating.

It is good to have a few people, and especially off duty or former workers, to try to talk to the workers in their cars as they approach.  Cheer loudly and yell “Thank you” when they drive away.

5.  Law enforcement.  Law enforcement is generally permitted to lie and use force to achieve their objective, but the public (we) also has rights.  It is a big advantage to have legal counsel present, perhaps from friendly members of the National Lawyers Guild.  Photo documentation can also be important, both for evidence and publication.

Our experience is that we will be allowed to express free speech rights in public areas and that the officers may try to clear a path for vehicles to enter and exit.  Obviously, we have no objection to exiting, but it is our understanding that the police have the right to clear an entrance path.  Our job is to convince the workers not to use the path.

Often, the presence of law enforcement is itself a deterrent to workers.  Remember that workers also sometimes find themselves on the picket line.  If they see a huge number of law enforcement personnel in formation at a gate, they might actually be less inclined to enter.  This can be encouraged by testing the limits.  Sometimes some of the uniformed officers will be kept in vehicles and pulled out only as needed.  Larger numbers are needed to form a path for vehicles when picketers are blocking the way.

These suggestions are just a start and by no means exhaustive.  Others will undoubtedly add plenty of advice.  Hopefully, the fact that a handbook is even motivated is an indication that this historic movement is just beginning to sweep the nation and the world.



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