25 protesters arrested after shutting down Bay Bridge

ByVic Lee, Alan Wang, and Leslie Brinkley KGO logo
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
25 protesters arrested after shutting down Bay Bridge
Monday afternoon around 4 p.m. about 25 protesters chained themselves through cars to stop all westbound traffic of the Bay Bridge.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Twenty-five protesters were arrested for blocking all westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge on Monday afternoon.

The protesters drove onto the Bay Bridge, before 4 p.m. In unison, they stopped near the eastern span tower and linked themselves together, weaving the chain through each car's window. All westbound traffic came to a complete halt.

CHP Officer Vu Williams said, "The big difficulty was getting the bolt cutters here. We were able to do that within 15 to 20 minutes of our arrival."

The CHP got the protesters moved to the side of the bridge and all lanes of the bridge reopened by about 5:30 p.m.

PHOTOS: Chained protesters block westbound traffic on Bay Bridge

The protesters were arrested on suspicion of obstructing traffic on a freeway, public nuisance and unlawful assembly. Their cars were impounded and they were taken to CHP headquarters in San Francisco before being transported to the San Francisco County Jail.

Around 11 p.m. the protesters were released from county jail. Protest organizers said they were working hard to get them out. However, the CHP said it is working just as hard with the district attorney to prosecute everyone who was involved.

Members of protest groups Black Seed and the Black Queer Liberation Collective took responsibility for the protest in a statement, citing recent police shootings. The protest was part of a series of actions for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"We are here to move towards an increase in the health and well-being of all Black people in Oakland and San Francisco," the groups wrote in a statement.

They demanded the divestment of city funds in policing, an investment in affordable housing, the resignation of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the termination of San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr and Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent and the termination of police officers involved in several recent shootings.

Activists carried several different signs, some of which read "Black Health Matters."

"People are unhealthy, people are sick, people are ill, there's mentally ill and homeless, especially black people all over the streets of these cities and no one is doing anything about it," protester Vanessa Riles said.

Black Seed organizer Sulaiman Hyatt said, "We like to see it as an action that wanted to call attention to black issues around gentrification, around policing, around the murder of black people, around the issue of systematic racism."

Despite the safety risk, the protesters say it was more important to draw attention to a serious issue.

Another protest shut down the off-ramp to Interstate Highway 80 in Emeryville earlier Monday afternoon.

Another group that says they were behind the Bay Bridge protest is the APTP, or the Anti-Police Terror Project, who were part of a larger coalition engaged in the "96 Hours of Direct Action to reclaim Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's radical legacy."

In an email to ABC7 News, the group says the goal is to "stand against anti-Black racism and terrorism" and as a show of resistance to a system that, "continues to oppress Black, Queer, Brown, Indigenous and other marginalized people throughout the Bay Area."

The email concluded by saying, "Today, Black.Seed celebrates and honors the radical legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Historically, our people have had to take drastic and dramatic measures to highlight the systemic abuses that harm our communities. 51 years ago, those who came before us participated in direct action in Selma, Alabama, to speak out against the harms of racism and oppression. It is this very spirit of resistance that flows through our lives and actions, in the Black Out Friday, Black Brunches, and highway shutdowns of today."

Bay Area drivers upset protesters stopped all bridge traffic

There were many drivers that became upset with the Bay Bridge shutdown.

This former San Francisco Police Captain Al Casciato snapped a photo of an UCSF Children's Hospital ambulance stuck in the traffic.

"It would have been futile for them to have the lights on. There was no place to go," Casciato explained.

His newborn grandson was transported by ambulance last year. That struck a chord and it's why he posted the picture on Facebook. He said, "It scares you to think that they might not be able to get to the treatment in time."

For other people it wasn't an emergency, it was about money and personal loss. Some people missed flights, others missed out on hours of work.

Tony Wali, who was stuck in traffic said, "On the radio they said some protestors chained their cars. And right now, we passed them and they were just sitting there handcuffed, laughing. A lot of us have work to do and they don't think about it. How is that going to help their cause, if they're doing it for a cause? They're not thinking about other people that have to work and get somewhere you know."

Stanley Cooper who was also stuck in traffic said, "If there's one word I could pick, it's selfish. It's not fair. I'm trying to make it to work, feed my family. I work at a union hall, so they might pass my number. The bottom line is I just wish they could've done something a little different."

Commuter Hwee See said, "It's a little bit of perhaps a lack of consideration and responsibility. I think there are ways to protest that are maybe less disruptive to other people's lives."

According to Casciato, who was once in charge of the traffic division, said the owners of the vehicles that blocked the bridge could find themselves and their insurance companies liable for all the damages.