Protesters could face harsher penalties for blocking San Mateo Bridge

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ByVic Lee KGO logo
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Protesters could face harsher penalties for blocking San Mateo Bridge
Sixty-eight protesters were arrested Monday after blocking traffic and demonstrating on the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge and they could face harsher penalties.

FOSTER CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- New information has emerged on the impact caused by Monday night's shut down of the San Mateo Bridge.

At one point, protesters had blocked both sides of Highwy 92. The sudden blockade caused accidents and injuries. This was the first time protesters shut down the San Mateo Bridge, the longest bridge in the state. The district attorney says demonstrating on the nine-mile bridge is dangerous because there are no exits or turn around lanes.

"This particular protest caused several collisions involving property damage and minor injuries, as well as some hit-and-run crashes," California Highway Patrol spokesman Daniel Hill said.

Sixty-eight protesters were arrested and charged with creating a public nuisance and obstructing people's right to travel. The accidents and injuries could now mean harsher penalties than just misdemeanors.

"That makes it more serious that there's been harm," San Mateo District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. "Restitution ought to be paid and so you look to see what the harm is as with any action."

The group, many of them Stanford University students, made their way onto Highway 92 to protest injustices against African Americans and Palestinians.

They had been dropped off by cars on the westbound lanes near the high rise around 4:50 p.m. Demonstrators then blocked both sides of the freeway.

The CHP was able to reopen eastbound lanes shortly after 5 p.m., but traffic heading west was still blocked by protesters. The CHP was finally able to clear those lanes, after making arrests.

Many drivers were stuck for more than an hour because of residual delays caused by the large number of arrests and transporting them off the bridge.

People who spoke with ABC7 News had the same reaction to the protester's actions, anger and frustration.

"If there were stricter penalties, I don't think they'd want to do it then," said Laura Nava, a pharmaceutical salesperson. "Problem is they know they can get away with it."

"An appropriate protest is when it does not disturb others that do not have a great impact on what the issue is," Jahcari Spencer, a limousine driver, said.

ABC7 News reached out to protest organizers for a response but requests were not answered.