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Photos: Bay Bridge fully reopens; 80 protesters arrested

After shutting down the westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge for hours, protesters demanding a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war were arrested and taken off of the bridge. | Source: Courtesy KGO-TV/ABC7 News

Photos: Bay Bridge fully reopens; 80 protesters arrested

A total of 80 anti-war protesters were arrested after they blocked the westbound Bay Bridge for hours on Thursday morning and snarled traffic into San Francisco.

Officials confirmed the arrests of 67 women and 13 men on Thursday related to the demonstration. One protester has been booked into jail, while the other 79 were cited and released. A total of 29 vehicles were towed.

A large group of SFPD officers wearing riot gear use batons on protesters during a protest on the Bay Bridge.
Demonstrators clash with police as arrests are made after shutting down the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge in conjunction with the APEC Summit taking place in San Francisco on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023. | Source: Noah Berger/AP Photo

The bridge fully reopened just after noon, according to California Highway Patrol Officer Miguel Camarena.

“What they’ve done is put people’s lives at risk,” said a CHP officer at the scene, who added that while officers support First Amendment rights, blocking the bridge was “100% wrong.”

Some drivers abandoned their cars and threw their keys into the bay, according to the officer, who repeated this information twice. CHP said it had been videotaping the entire demonstration to identify people and vehicles involved in the protest.

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department said about 80 protesters were cited and released after blocking the bridge.

An exasperated person with their arms spread, yelling in the direction of 2 protesters stands between gridlock traffic during a protest on the Bay Bridge.
Dr. George Tanaka, left, an eye surgeon, gestures as demonstrators shut down the Bay Bridge in conjunction with the APEC Summit taking place in San Francisco on Thursday. | Source: Noah Berger/AP Photo

Around 250 law enforcement officers, including CHP and sheriff’s deputies, swarmed the bridge to end the shutdown. Multiple cars were towed off the bridge.

More than 1,000 law enforcement officers were sent to San Francisco in advance of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, the vast majority of them from the CHP, to provide security. Prior to Thursday’s protest, CHP officers had taken two lanes of the bridge out of service during the summit.

Protesters Call for Cease-Fire in Gaza

CHP said approximately 100 people blocked all westbound lanes starting around 7:42 a.m. Protesters unfurled a banner across the bridge pavement, pointing skyward. It read, “Biden Harris Ceasefire Now,” referencing the Israel-Hamas war, and was captured by an aerial traffic camera.

A banner reading "ceasefire" is laid on the pavement of the Bay Bridge as anti-war protesters block traffic in a photo captured from high on the bridge.
Anti-war protesters stretched a banner across the Bay Bridge, blocking traffic, on Thursday. | Source: California Department of Transportation

CHP officers on loudspeakers asked the demonstrators to leave the bridge at 8:45 a.m., declaring the protest an unlawful assembly. Officers confiscated some of the banners. Two white San Francisco Sheriff’s Department buses were on the bridge to transport detained protesters.

A driver on the bridge witnessed cars turning around and driving the wrong way to get off the span. Protesters walked through traffic and handed flyers to drivers and passengers in cars.

Cars turn back on the Bay Bridge toward Oakland after westbound lanes were blocked Thursday morning by anti-war protesters. | Alicia Cocchi/The Standard | Source: Alicia Cocchi/The Standard

Protest organizers said they were staging a “die-in” to commemorate the estimated 11,000 killed in Gaza as the war between Israel and Hamas rages on.

Rami Abdelkarim of the Palestinian Youth Movement told The Standard from the bridge that about 250 to 300 people joined in blocking Bay Bridge lanes.

“You can hear them kind of chanting behind me,” Abdelkarim said. “What people are demanding today is that as long as Joe Biden continues to fund the genocide of the Palestinian people in Gaza, there will be no business as usual.”

A protest flier has information about the Israel-Hamas war and Gaza invasion, it urges a ceasefire in Gaza.
A flyer distributed on the Bay Bridge on Thursday morning explains the reasons protesters demanding a cease-fire were blocking the span. | Source: Alicia Cocchi/The Standard

Protesters noted that Indonesian President Joko Widodo had urged President Joe Biden to work for a cease-fire in Gaza. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.

Biden attended APEC events at the Moscone Center on Thursday, and planned to host a dinner reception at the Legion of Honor later in the day. The president welcomed world leaders at a star-studded event at the Exploratorium museum on Wednesday night.

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