Ports in Australia have emerged as a center for pro-Palestine marches in the country, with demonstrators targeting Israeli ships and ships believed to have links to them, in the context of solidarity activities in rejection of the Israeli aggression against Gaza strip.
Last week, dozens of people tried to prevent the container ship “Zim Gangs” from reaching the Port of Melbourne, and sought to besiege it, and the police were forced to use pepper spray to break the blockade on the shipping container yard and cranes.
Dozens were arrested after the protesters prevented access to the dock and forced the international container terminal to close.
Legal observers who accompanied the demonstrators say that “about 200 police confronted them, some of whom were riding horses.”
Tasnim Mahmoud Al-Sammak, an activist with the Free Palestine Association in Melbourne, said, “I have family in Gaza, and they have no place to go in this prison, which is under bombardment.”
As for Sophia Sabbagh, a Palestinian artist residing in Melbourne, she told Al Jazeera, “They surrounded us, formed lines, and intimidated us,” adding that the group complied with the request not to continue the siege to avoid arrest.
Al-Sabbagh continued, “As soon as we arrived at the scene, the police took us away from our medical supplies and equipment, pulled one person from a wheelchair, pushed many other people, and pepper-sprayed more than 20 people.”
“I was shocked when I saw someone being pulled out of his wheelchair,” she said.
Legal observers say the crowd was not a threat, they were just chanting, while Victoria Police say the use of pepper spray was a response to the “violent nature” of the protest and the threat posed by the “aggressive” demonstrators.
The blockade was imposed at the port in Melbourne, the second largest city in Australia, in the afternoon of January 19, a few hours before the ship “Zim Gangs”, sailing under the Portuguese flag, was scheduled to dock.
Zim Gangs Shipping Company was founded in 1945 as part of Israel's quest for statehood, initially helping Holocaust survivors travel to the new state of Israel.
Zim, which is currently the tenth largest shipping company in Israel, has sparked protests since CEO Eli Glickman promised to meet all of Israel's needs after the start of the Israeli aggression on Gaza on October 7.