Security heightened at Golden Gate Bridge

April 7, 2008 7:18:44 PM PDT
The first question that comes to mind is why wasn't there enough security to stop these protesters on the Golden Gate Bridge?

Since September 11, the bridge has supposedly maintained a heightened level of security. But on Monday, it took officials several minutes to get to the protesters. By then they were already out of reach.

"I found out the torch was coming to San Francisco a year ago after getting back from Tibet and knew something had to happen," said Laurel Sutherlin.

Monday's risky climb was planned well in advance, according to the organizers of "Students for a Free Tibet."

Bridge security and California Highway Patrol officers never saw it coming. It took them two to three minutes to get to the climbers.

Kary Witt is the bridge manager. He says they quickly knew the protesters were not terrorists.

"Our security forces here on the bridge, highway patrol, park police are ready and able to use deadly force if they feel the bridge is really in danger, so we quickly made the determination that this wasn't that type of operation," said Golden Gate Bridge manager Kary Witt.

Witt says security on the bridge is supposed to be on high alert beginning tomorrow when the torch arrives in San Francisco and on the highest alert on Wednesday during the torch run.

"Extra people on site, extra coverage on the sidewalks from our own people, highway patrol officers, park police and rangers," said Witt.

In fact, when the three protesters were climbing the bridge, those agencies were having a security planning meeting nearby.

Should there have been more security on the bridge at the time?

"Probably, maybe, again it's 1.7 miles of sidewalk and it's like everything that happens, you don't see everything," said Mary Currie from the Golden Gate Bridge District.

There are security cameras on the bridge. But bridge authorities will not say how many.

"I'm just thinking of our viewers at home thinking tonight when they are watching, they are going to say my god that could have been anything even a bomb," said ABC7's Lyanne Melendez.

"We'll we are going to evaluate this very closely along with the Golden Gate Bridge, to ensure this doesn't occur within the next few days or hope ever again," said Sgt. Trent Cross from the California Highway Patrol.

New enforcement on that bridge will certainly be looked at and that is something that may change in the future.

With regards to the strollers where the protesters hid most of their equipment, the bridge manager said: "In order to discover that, we would have to be in the business of searching baby carriages, which is something we don't do." -- That too may change.

The walkway pedestrian will be reopen on Tuesday at 5:00 a.m.

View video taken by Students for a Free Tibet of the Golden Gate Bridge protest here.

For Olympic Torch schedule and information, including street closures and the six-mile route through San Francisco, click here.

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