CHP works to keep drivers safe after protesters march onto Bay Area freeways

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) -- In the past 48 hours, the CHP has arrested 223 demonstrators who marched onto Bay Area freeways. Nearly 160 people were arrested in Berkeley Monday night as crowds marched for a third night in a row to protest grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of two unarmed black men in other states.

As some protesters took their message off the streets and onto the freeways, commuters faced a huge traffic mess.

To help keep it from happening again, the CHP has deployed extra patrols and even called in officers from other divisions in other cities. They want protesters to know they respect their right to express their opinions, but that the freeway is not a safe place or legal place to do that.

RAW VIDEO: Protesters in Berkeley shut down I-80


On Monday night, a large group of demonstrators blocked traffic on both sides of Interstate 80 after destroying perimeter fencing and flooding lanes. At first, a small group trickled out onto the freeway near University Avenue, with cars continuing to zipping by.

The CHP says a large group of demonstrators blocked traffic on both sides of Interstate 80 after destroying perimeter fencing and flooding lanes on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014.



Eventually, hundreds spilled into lanes of traffic, effectively shutting down both east and westbound lanes.

"It's not right," said Ernie Sanchez, assistant chief of the CHP Golden Gate Division. "It's not only not right, but it's against the law."

The CHP says a large group of demonstrators blocked traffic on both sides of Interstate 80 after destroying perimeter fencing and flooding lanes on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014.



Sanchez says officers are sworn to protect the constitution, but this is not a peaceful assembly. They say it's illegal and dangerous.

"Not only could they be killed as pedestrians, but the damage could be two-fold," said Sanchez. "Those families that are unsuspecting and strike a pedestrian, can you imagine the holiday season?"

He says that their goal on Tuesday night is to keep protesters off the freeway. They're prepared with extra patrols and resources including air support.

The CHP says a large group of demonstrators blocked traffic on both sides of Interstate 80 after destroying perimeter fencing and flooding lanes on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014.



In past days, officers have used rubber bullets and bean bags to physically clear the crowd.

"The number one thing that worked was starting to make arrests," Sanchez said. "I mean, having an arrest on your record is something you'll have to check applying for school or for a job."

The CHP says a large group of demonstrators blocked traffic on both sides of Interstate 80 after destroying perimeter fencing and flooding lanes on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014.



Bail for some of those arrested after marching onto I-80 has been set at $50,000.

Sanchez says they cannot realistically position officers on every mile of the interstate. So if drivers do get stuck again Tuesday night, he says the best thing to do is stay calm and be patient. He adds that drivers should roll up windows, lock doors, and call 911 if they feel they're in danger.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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