A confrontation between police and activists blocking the Israel-owned shipping company ZIM at Port Melbourne led to 10 arrests this Tuesday.
Protestors gathered around Webb Dock Victoria International Terminal to block access to the ZIM ship, over concerns that the ship’s cargo could include weapons destined for Israel’s assault on Gaza.
Reports say that the number of protestors grew to about 120 on Tuesday, in the fourth day of action.
In a post on Instagram, Free Palestine Melbourne condemned the actions of police for actions that they said escalated risk and involved excessive force.
“We condemn the police violence today and throughout the last 4 days including the use of pepper spray on people not posing a threat, crowd control that escalated the risk of harm, and excessive use of force,” Free Palestine Melbourne said in a post to their Instagram on Tuesday morning.
A police spokesperson defended the actions of police at Port Melbourne.
“The protest activity is extremely dynamic and has escalated in recent days. So too has our police response,” said the spokesperson.
“The number of protestors grew to approximately 120. OC spray was deployed at one point due to the aggressive nature of some of the protesters.”
Police also said that they were responding to concerns from the property owner and from dock employees who had been unable to attend their place of work due to safety concerns.
In response to reports of dock workers being stood down without pay over protest actions, activist groups collectively raised more than $23,000 to distribute to the affected employees.
They said that details around the distribution of this money would be released in the coming days.
International Container Services CEO, Bruno Porchietto, said the protests were taking a costly toll on the Australian economy.
“We’re really desperate because every hour that passes, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being lost…it’s not just us that are losing, it’s the Australian economy,” said Porchietto.
Reports indicate that the transport of between 30,000 and 50,000 containers has been blocked, and the ZIM ship Ganges remains anchored in the bay, unable to dock.
It is understood that other shipping companies have also been impacted by the protest.
Police arrested 10 activists on Tuesday, nine for trespassing and one for criminal damage.