Indigenous protesters helped delay a United States military ship believed to be loaded with weapons for Israel on Nov. 6, with water warriors blocking the ship in canoes.
The protest began before dawn at the Port of Tacoma, on the traditional homelands of the Puyallup Tribe. Around 2 p.m. the protest expanded to a water resistance, with Indigenous water warriors taking to the Puget Sound in traditional canoes in an attempt to block the boat from leaving the harbor.
“Here existing in prayer and community on our ancestral waters, just as we always have,” wrote Calina Lawrence, a Suquamish water warrior, on Instagram while out on the water. “To the people of Gaza, we love you from Coast Salish Territory and beyond!”
Picket signs reading “Indigenous Queers for free Palestine,” “Landback includes Palestine,” and “No peace on stolen land” were dispersed along with hundreds of others calling for a ceasefire and the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Hundreds of protesters marched all day, delaying cargo ship MV Cape Orlando, believed to be loaded with weapons headed for Israel, until around 4:30 p.m. Organizers said the cargo ship had been partially loaded from the water, but the ship was delayed an entire day and much of the cargo blocked due to the car blockades protesters set up at every entrance into the port.
The city and Port of Tacoma are on the traditional homelands of the Puyallup Tribe. The Arab Resource and Organizing Center, International League of Peoples Struggle Seattle–Tacoma, Samidoun Seattle, Falastiniyat, and the Tacoma chapter of Democratic Socialists of America organized in solidarity with Puyallup citizens and water warriors and other Coast Salish and Indigenous people from across Turtle Island in order to accomplish what they consider over eight hours of victory for their cause.
“The struggle for liberation, for liberated Palestine and liberated Palestinians, is the same fight as the Indigenous struggle for landback and liberation,” says Ana Alvarez, a citizen of the Oglala Lakota. “From my perspective, settler colonialism, imperialism, capitalism all serve oppressors. They all oppress people of color, and they’re oppressing Palestinians. They’re the same tools that were utilized to oppress Indigenous peoples here in Turtle Island.”
Alvarez was asked to be “captain,” or the leader, at the main port-gate blockade. “I accepted because I believe that if you get called on, you can’t say no, especially when it comes to helping your friends and family advocate for their people,” Alvarez says.
Before the sun had come up, Alvarez was guiding protesters at that entrance in their chants and shared their personal, cultural, and ethical beliefs in speeches to the crowd about why blocking the boat from leaving the port was so important.
“What I’m doing is going to affect seven generations after me,” Alvarez told the crowd. “What we do now is gonna matter seven generations from now… This moment matters.”
The Pentagon was aware of the protest and was working with the Department of Transportation, the U.S. Coast Guard, and local law enforcement “to ensure the security and safety of military assets and personnel operating at commercial port facilities,” Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Jurgensen said Monday.
Jurgensen acknowledged that the MV Cape Orlando is a U.S. Navy cargo ship moving U.S. military cargo but said security reasons prevented him from specifying where the shipment was going or what exactly was being shipped.
Several Tacoma police cars were parked just inside each port-gate entrance with lights on before protesters arrived at 5 a.m. Near a gate where protesters were marching was a U.S. Coast Guard boat with an assault rifle attached to its bow.
The Port of Tacoma and the U.S. Coast Guard didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
Hamas, which started as a resistance group after 40 years of violent dispossession of Palestinians from their homelands by Israeli settlers, opened fire and murdered many young Israelis during a music festival located just outside of the Gaza Strip in October. Hamas killed about 1,400 people and seized at least 200 hostages on Oct. 7, 2023.
The Gaza Strip, home to over two million people, has been called an “open-air prison” by Human Rights Watch and others. The Israeli government restricts the rights of people living there to work, education, travel—even water. Since the Hamas attack, the Israeli government has bombed schools, hospitals, churches, and refugee camps in Gaza, which is less than a third of the size of Los Angeles, claiming they are targeting Hamas. Palestinians, and those protesting the ongoing bombardment of Gaza, see this as an ethnic cleansing by the occupying Israeli government.
Over 10,000 Palestinian people have been killed since Oct. 7, and 70% of them have been women and children. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the Gaza Strip was becoming “a graveyard for children.”
Around 11 a.m. organizers stopped marching to speak to the crowds of protesters and announce that the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza had just been bombed by Israeli forces. Alvarez got back on the microphone, voice shaking, to remind the crowd, “This is why we’re here. Palestinians deserve better.”
Luna Reyna is a writer and broadcaster whose work has identified, supported, and promoted the voices of the systematically excluded in service of liberation and advancing justice for almost a decade. Before coming to Underscore News and ICT as the Seattle-based Northwest Bureau Chief, Reyna was Crosscut’s Indigenous Affairs Reporter, and her work has appeared in the South Seattle Emerald, Prism Reports, Talk Poverty and more. Luna is proud of her Little Shell Chippewa and Mexican heritage and is passionate about reporting that sheds light on colonial white supremacist systems of power.