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Ships and containers will sit untouched at all 29 ports up and down the West Coast tomorrow, but the ports themselves are expected to be jam-packed with protestors. Union workers have pledged to stop work and join a coordinated show of solidarity for Black lives and against police violence and systemic racism, and thousands are expected to join the action.
In Oakland, the rally was organized by the newly formed Committee to Stop Terror and End Systemic Racism by Black leaders of local International Longshore and Warehouse Union units 10, 34, 75, and 91.
ILWU, which was established in 1937 after the massive 1934 waterfront strike in San Francisco, has a history of combating racism in labor movements. The current president, Willie Adams, is also the union’s first Black international president.
The rally will begin at 10 a.m. at Oakland International Container Terminal (SSA Terminal) at 1717 Middle Harbor Road, and will open with a keynote speech by famed political activist and philosopher Angela Davis.
Davis is known for her organizing with the Black Panther Party and influential books including Women, Race, and Class, published in 1980, and 2016’s Freedom is a Constant Struggle. Best recognized as a radical African-American educator, she advocates for gender equity, racial justice, and prison abolition.
ILWU has been a longtime supporter of Davis. In 1970, Davis was arrested for allegedly aiding Jonathan Jackson, who took a judge, prosecutor, and juror hostage from the Marin County Courthouse. Davis was accused of purchasing and providing the guns Jackson used in the attack, and was charged with murder and kidnapping. The ILWU pushed to ensure that Davis received a fair trial and was released on bail. Davis was found not guilty by a jury in 1972.
Davis has spoken in support of port union workers in the past, and highlighted their role in anti-racist movements. “For example, right here in the Bay Area, one of the first major activist moments was the refusal on the part of the longshoremen’s union to unload ships that were coming in from South Africa,” said Davis in a 1997 PBS Frontline interview. In December of 1962, Bay Area members of the ILWU organized an anti-apartheid boycott of South African cargo, in which workers refused to touch any cargo coming in from the country for eleven days.
“What makes this protest unique is the intergenerational collaboration, as we have longshoremen in their 70s working with the youth to protest in solidarity,” said rally organizer Blake Dahlstrom. Youth-focused organizations such as the Sunrise Movement, East Bay DSA and DSA SF are also helping organize tomorrow’s rally.
Friday’s rally at the Port is also the starting point for a march to the Oakland Police Department Headquarters, where activist and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, Cat Brooks, will speak.
A Juneteenth celebration will start at 1 p.m. at Frank Ogawa Plaza, where humanitarian and actor Danny Glover, musician Boots Riley, and Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, will speak.
Participants can also join an optional car caravan, following protesters on foot. There will also be a livestream on East Bay Democratic Socialists of America’s Youtube channel, and a broadcast on 88.3 FM.