This coming Thursday, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) are planning a historic May Day shutdown of 29 West Coast ports to protest the Iraq War. Here in San Francisco, ILWU's local affiliate will host a protest march down the Embarcadero in support of the work stoppage. To get out the word about the action and the march, union members set up a website, hosted by Google. But according to several sources both inside and outside of the union, when interested web surfers went to the site last night and this morning, they saw only a blank screen hosting an Orwellian-sounding message:
"This site has been disabled for violations of our Program Policies"
Reached by phone, strike site webmaster Russ Miyashiro told me he was never contacted by Google to warn him of its impending takedown, which he said took place around 4 PM pacific time on Monday. And when he looked into the so-called "Program Policies" the site supposedly violated, he told me those policies restricted posting "things like pornography or stuff that has to do with criminality."
Miyashiro claimed he fired off an angry email to Google early last evening. "We're an anti-war and pro-labor website," he said he wrote. "Pulling our website was an act of political censorship." By around 11 AM this morning, the site was back up -- though, again, Miyashiro said no one at Google bothered to contact him or anyone else affiliated with the site to alert them to the fact.
After Google was asked for comment on this issue, spokesperson Nancy Ngo said she would immediately look into the matter. As of press time there was no further comment.
ILWU's Jack Heyman, who co-chairs the protest's local organizing committee, said he believes Google "came to their senses" because people "from around the world started emailing them and protesting this egregious violation of free speech."
Heyman says he expects the march on Thursday to be a watershed moment for the labor and antiwar movements. "Never in the history of this country have workers taken an action like this to oppose a war ... our membership has decided enough is enough."