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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Protesters block Tacoma port to halt ship believed to be Israel-bound

Cars, signs and hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gather at the Port of Tacoma at Terminal 7 to block the entrance on Monday. They believe a military ship is bound for Israel.  (Ellen M. Banner/Seattle Times)
By Claire Withycombe </p><p>and Vonnai Phair Seattle Times

TACOMA – Hundreds of people blocked the Port of Tacoma on Monday to protest what they believe to be a military ship bound for Israel.

Roughly 300 people were gathered in various locations around the port entrance by late morning to prevent longshoremen from loading cargo onto the MV Cape Orlando, a U.S. military supply vessel.

Some groups marched in circles. Some people waved Palestinian flags and some held signs that read “No Aid for Israel,” “Ceasefire now,” and “Resist Until Return.”

“We are here today because we are blocking a military vessel that has come from the Oakland dock up to Tacoma,” said Bissan Barghouti, of the group Samidoun Seattle.

Protesters believe the ship is meant to transport military equipment and weapons to Israel. Barghouti said they were not exactly sure where the weapons were located. Port of Tacoma officials did not immediately respond to requests for more information.

“But we do know by our presence here, we are blocking the workers from being able to do their job and load the ship,” Barghouti said.

The protest began at 5 a.m., said Alon Lapid of Students United for Palestinian Equality and Return, or SUPER, at the University of Washington.

Protesters shut down lanes of traffic and multiple gates at the port with their cars, forcing ship workers to turn around. Tacoma police were on scene behind a fence at the terminal, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.

Lapid pointed to recent protests held in Seattle, Olympia and Washington, D.C., drawing thousands of people.

Every weekend, organizations including Samidoun Seattle and SUPER UW have been organizing rallies of thousands of people calling for an end to the siege, a cease-fire and cutting off U.S. military aid to Israel, “including Washington state’s local ties to the Israeli occupation,” Lapid said.

It is unclear how long the protest at the Port of Tacoma would last.

“We’re intending to stay here specifically until we get confirmation that the weapons will not be loaded in the boat,” Lapid said. “But we anticipate that there will be future actions that we will be called upon to take up.”

The Cape Orlando was previously in Oakland, California, where protesters delayed it from leaving for nine hours on Friday by attempting to board the ship and tampering with mooring lines, the U.S. Coast Guard said in a news release.

In June 2021, protesters planned to block an Israeli cargo ship bound for Seattle amid deadly clashes in the Middle East. The ZIM San Diego, owned and operated by Israeli shipping company ZIM, was scheduled to dock at Harbor Island on June 2, 2021, The Seattle Times reported at the time. Seattle Police arrested 10 people after that protest, KUOW reported.