Thirty pro-Palestinian activists on a Canadian boat bound for Gaza that was stopped out of a Greek port Monday for breaking a ban, defied authorities by claiming they had all captained the ship.Fatah-oriented Palestinian Arab media are pretty much ignoring the entire flotilla story. Hamas prime minister Haniyeh saluted the would-be seafarers.
Greek coastguards halted the Canadian vessel Tahrir about 10 minutes after it left port on the island of Crete Monday afternoon with some 40 people on board, organisers said.
"We have been boarded by about 15 armed special forces," David Heap of the Canadian Boat to Gaza organization said by phone from the vessel.
"I'm being blocked by a man with a machine gun," he said over the noise of shouting from passengers he said were being pushed around. "We are not using force back," he added.
The Tahrir, which was carrying activists from Canada, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, was forced to turn back to Aghios Nikolaos port in Crete, as Heap and others shouted, "We have to go to Gaza. Let us pass!"
It had sailed without a captain in the hope of avoiding a severe legal repercussions.
Passenger Joseph Dube, a former Belgium senator with an expired captain's licence, had sailed the ship and agreed to take full legal responsibility, according to the Tahrir's spokesperson Huwaida Arraf.
When authorities boarded the boat and demanded to speak to the captain, some 30 passengers "claimed they were the captain," she said.
"Everyone took part in manning the boat in one way or another -- they all had a go at sailing it. The idea is that it will be difficult to arrest 30 people," she said.
It is not yet clear what will happen to the passengers on the Tahrir.
"We left as a volunteer crew. It was legal for us to do so under international law, they had no right to stop us," Heap said, adding: "Our destination is still Gaza."
Earlier on Monday, French activists had been joined by their American counterparts to stage a "symbolic departure," on the Louise Michel boat in defiance of the Greek ban.
"And we're off!" shouted the passengers, cheering and waving as the captain of the Louise Michele unfurled the sails and wildly beeped the boat's horn, chanting "One, two, three four, Occupation No More!"
Activists from the impounded Audacity had begun a hunger-strike in front of the US embassy on Sunday to protest against the arrest of their captain, who was allegedly being held in "shocking conditions".
They were quickly moved on by police.
French Captain Alain Connan said he had decided not to set sail because he risked being slapped with a long prison sentence.
Head of the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) Moustafa Barghouti said the demonstration was an "exciting moment" and that people in Gaza had "already called to say how grateful they are for such a devoted show of solidarity".
Standing out on deck wrapped in a Palestinian flag, he said the protest was helping "expose not only Israel's blockade and occupation but also the complicity of the European and American governments".
The US Boat to Gaza website adds:
Two boats from France – a cargo ship and a smaller passenger boat – are in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea. (They did not set sail from Greece.) We are not sure what they are planning on doing.Free Gaza called for a protest today in front of the Greek embassy in London.
The Irish boat was sabotaged beyond repair last week and the Greek boat was also sabotaged but we do not have an update on their status.
I couldn't find any footage of this massive London protest - for some reason none was uploaded to the Free Gaza site - so we will have to make due with footage of the Dublin protest, where a huge crowd of eight people or so got to listen to other people shouting unintelligible slogans with bullhorns:
Montreal managed to scrounge about a dozen lethargic protesters in support of the floptilla:
The flotidiot's tweets are also hilarious, as they compare the Greeks stopping them from sailing to Nazis "following orders." Their smug sense of self-righteousness - where they are now "fasting" for their flotilla - is classic. You can get a taste of their holier-than-thou attitudes in this report from Euronews:
Of course, Israel is the source for all evil, and now the Greeks are guilty by proxy.
And here are the poor, starving children that they are trying to help so badly: