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Historic 1911 Garment District Fire Is Invoked at Protest Over Deadly Blaze in Bangladesh Clothing Factory Linked to Walmart

#Blocktheboat brings thumbs up from truckers at Walmart/Bangladesh Fire protest.

#Blocktheboat brings thumbs up from truckers at Walmart\/Bangladesh Fire protest.

A #blocktheboat protest at the Port of Newark garners support from truckers and – surprisingly – some members of law enforcement.

On the morning of December 18th, a group of activists from a number of workers’ rights groups boarded buses at Canal, next to Duarte Park and headed for the Port of Newark. Some 60 participants from the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN), the New Jersey Industrial Union Council, the Occupy Working Group 99 and other organizations, set out to #blocktheboat.

The #blocktheboat protest, with funded by the Triangle Fire Coalition, was planned to prevent the unloading of a container ship carrying clothing from Walmart’s Bangladesh factories. The coalition was formed to commemorate a 1911 fire in New York’s garment district that was blamed on lax safety.

News reports have suggested Walmart may have resisted efforts to improve worker safety at a factory where more than 100 garment workers perished in a November fire. You can read more about the Triangle factory fire here.

While the activists were not allowed near the dock, they did make their voices heard – and gained support of the port security and even some of the Port Authority Police and many passing truck drivers who gave us a honk and a thumbs-up.

Early rise for activism: The bus left at 6 a.m., filled with protestors bound for New Jersey.


The sun had not yet come up as we entered the Garden State; our bus driver Muhammed checks his GPS.


Parked by the port entrance: The protestors are denied entry and told to move to a “safe place.” After some debate with the Port Authority Police Department, they decide to move on.


The police gave our bus an escort to the designated “safe” free speech zone.


“Sea Link” is the Port Authority’s uniform truck driver identification system. About half a dozen police officers stood by and watched.


A protestor wears a Guy Fawkes mask while joking with a Port Authority Police officer.


Truck drivers entering the port honk horns in support (they were smiling while doing it) of protestors holding anti-Walmart signs.


The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition showed up in force to protest Walmart. A similar tragedy in 1911 at a New York garment factory was made all the more significant in light of recent events in Bangladesh. Other activists hold a mock-police tape that proclaims this a “Walmart-Free Zone.”


Coffin-shaped signs held by activists spell out Walmart in remembrance of the dead in Bangladesh.


An unused sign lies on the ground proclaiming “Walmart: Fashion Kills,” after more than 100 workers die in a Bangladesh factory fire.


Journalist Josh Eidelson interviews Carol Gay, president of the New Jersey Industrial Union Council.


Activists hold up clothing that garment workers would have worn, with the names of victims of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire in New York.






Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) organizer Maritza Silva-Farrell thanks activists for their early rise and urges a continued struggle.