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Protesters calling for Gaza cease-fire block road at Tacoma port while military cargo ship docks

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Protesters hold up large wooden signs as they block the main Port of Tacoma entrance to delay the loading of the Cape Orlando vessel, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Tacoma, Wash.
Protesters hold up large wooden signs as they block the main Port of Tacoma entrance to delay the loading of the Cape Orlando vessel, Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, in Tacoma, Wash. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson) Photo Gallery

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza blocked traffic Monday at the Port of Tacoma, where a military supply ship had recently arrived.

Organizers said they opposed the Israel-Hamas war and targeted the vessel — the Cape Orlando — based on confidential information that it was to be loaded with weapons bound for Israel.

Those claims could not immediately be corroborated. In an emailed statement, Air Force Lt. Col. Bryon J. McGarry, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, confirmed that the vessel is under the control of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command and is supporting the movement of U.S. military cargo.

“Due to operations security, DoD does not provide transit or movement details or information regarding the cargo embarked on vessels of this kind,” McGarry said.

The Cape Orlando drew similar protests in Oakland, California, where it docked on Friday before it sailed to Tacoma. About 300 protesters delayed its departure, and the U.S. Coast Guard detained three people who climbed onto the ship.

The three were released on a pier in San Francisco, Petty Officer Hunter Schnabel said Monday. He said investigations are ongoing against the three and others who had breached the federal maritime area.

By midmorning Monday, about 200 protesters remained at the Port of Tacoma, some carrying signs reading “No Aid For Israel” and “Free All Palestinian Prisoners,” emblazoned with watermelons, a symbol of Palestinian freedom. No arrests had been made, said officer Shelbie Boyd, a spokesperson for the Tacoma Police Department.

The protesters’ goal was to block the Cape Orlando from being loaded, said Wassim Hage, with the San Francisco-based Arab Resource and Organizing Center.

“It speaks to the historic moment where people are coming out to say, ‘No. No funding for genocide, no U.S. bombs for bombing hospitals and killing children in Gaza,’” he said Monday.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 23, which represents workers at the Port of Tacoma, did not immediately returned phone messages from the Associated Press on Monday.

Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said more than 10,000 Palestinians have been killed in nearly a month of war in Gaza, and more than 4,000 of those killed are children and minors. That toll likely will rise as Israeli troops advance into dense, urban neighborhoods.

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