Prince Rupert Solidarity Group pickets at port in protest

K-J Millar

Jun. 16, 2021

Demonstrations against the container ship JPO Volans lead into the second day to dissuade docking

Picketers in Prince Rupert demonstrated the activist side of the city’s history, and present, with the second day of protesting against the docking and unloading of an Israeli-owned container ship at the Northcoast port, on June 15.

More than 40 protesters over the two-day peaceful action were seen waving banners and chanting “Block the Boat”, in support of humanitarian efforts against the Volans, a Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. cargo vessel that arrived in Prince Rupert, on June 14.

As part of “Block the Boat” campaign local humanitarian activists, Prince Rupert Solidarity Group organized the demonstration to bring awareness to the Israeli apartheid state and violations against Palestinians, Rasha El-Endari, co-founder of the organization, told The Northern View. The movement’s goal is to barricade Israel from shipping cargo to North America in response to the recent conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants.

We are here to block the Zim company ship. This company deals with Israeli manufactured technology and arms,” El-Endari said.

“We are here to ask the Port to block this ship and to not deal with apartheid states.”

During day one of the protests picketers positioned themselves at the terminal gates of DP World where the ship was scheduled to be unloaded. On the second day, picketers marched along Highway 16, with more than 30 cars and 50 port workers lined up along the road not crossing the picket line. As part of their duties, International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) Local 505 members are required to tie down and unload ships that enter the terminal.

The ship was originally denied docking in Oakland California on June 4, due to pro-Palestinian blockades. The ship carried on to Vancouver, where it was once again denied berth for unloading of the containers. In further hopes of unloading the goods, the ship arrived in the Port of Prince Rupert.

International restrictions have been encouraged by Palestinians and their supporters against Israeli ships and are part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to place pressure on the Israeli government. In their call for justice BDS demand military occupation of Gaza and the East bank to conclude, equal rights for Palestinians, and the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.

El-Endari said she is pleased with the diverse turnout, making the picket a successful one with the ship leaving port yesterday when it could not unload. However, when the organization heard of a second attempt being made, they rallied again to dissuade the unloading. Pickets have been timed to coincide with only the shifts where the ship has attempted to dock.

“We didn’t spend the night because we don’t want to interrupt the other business the port is doing, and we didn’t want to cause any damage to the workers – that’s very important,” she said.

“We are here to block this specific ship and be part of this international action against apartheid states, the oppression of people, and the killing of civilians,” El-Endari said.

ILWU Canada, DP World, and the Prince Rupert Port Authority did not return requests for information or comment. ILWU 505 Local declined to comment on the issue.