November 1 2014
Picket Lines and Civil Disobedience Block the Port of Tampa
For the fourth time in 3 months, Palestine solidarity activists converged on the Port of Tampa at 5:00 AM Saturday morning to disrupt ILA Local 1402 Longshoremen from unloading the Zim Alabama. The previous actions were not successful in delaying traffic into the port. Workers, and the trucks to carry Zim ship products to their final destination, freely moved into the Port of Tampa. But today’s picket was accompanied by an act of civil disobedience that jammed up traffic coming into the port for about an hour.
Dezeray Lyn, one of the organizers with Block the Boat Tampa, was driven into the port and assisted to get locked up to the passenger door of the car with a U-frame bicycle lock. At the same time, activists staged picket lines at the entrance to the port and in the “free speech zone” which lay ahead of the blocking car. Other activists surrounded Dezeray and the car, ensuring traffic that did make it into the port was directed around the car. Adding to this confusion was no less than 30 cops, port security personnel and their vehicles which unwittingly assisted activists in blocking the port.
Activists at the entrance to the port engaged in a soft block, slowly walking through the cross walks with dozens of signs and banners. This slowed traffic a bit. Most importantly, it diverted the attention of the cops away just long enough for Ms. Lyn to lock up to the vehicle. By the time cops arrived at stopped car, the hard block was in place. Sitting on the ground, Ms. Lyn’s neck was locked to the arm rest of the open car door. It was a courageous action; if an incoming car so much as tapped the blocking vehicle, Ms Lyn’s neck would likely have been broken.
Police arrived at the blockade in less than a minute. Their first reaction was to attempt to move activists away from the block vehicle. Activists refused to move, pointing out the danger traffic posed to Ms. Lyn. Officers insisted they would ensure the car would not be hit by incoming traffic, but while they mouthed this insistence, their actions were not protective. They seemed more interested in isolating Ms. Lyn from her comrades than taking action to ensure her safety. It took them more than 2 hours to set up safety cones around the car, whereas in previous port actions, it took them less than twenty minutes to set up cones around activists’ picket line to create a “free speech zone.” After some time 2 cop cars, lights flashing, were parked in back of the blocking car and most of the cops returned to the picket line at the port entrance, where they arrested a USF student for jaywalking in the crosswalk.
Several times during the morning officers returned, attempting to talk Ms Lyn into unlocking herself from the vehicle, stating that she would not be arrested if she unlocked herself. Her responses was she did not wish to comply and she wanted the opportunity to speak for her action in court..
Four and a half hours after being locked to the car, cops trespassed the activists remaining at the port and Dezeray Lyn’s lock was cut off and she was taken to jail to be booked for trespass. Comrades were there to pay her bail within an hour and she was released, pending her day in court.