SAN FRANCISCO — Demonstrators seeking a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas blocked bridges on both sides of the US on Thursday, including a major span into San Francisco during a global trade summit involving US President Joe Biden and other world leaders.
At least 50 protesters were arrested on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and 15 vehicles were towed after demonstrators blocked all lanes on the upper deck, with some drivers tossing their keys into the bay, said California Highway Patrol division chief Ezery Beauchamp.
Traffic was snarled for hours after more than 200 demonstrators demanded that Biden, in San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders conference, call for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas that has been raging since the Gaza-ruling terror group’s devastating October 7 onslaught in which around 1,200 people were killed, most of them civilians massacred amid brutal atrocities, and at least 240 abducted. Hamas claims over 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza, but its figures cannot be verified, and include its own terrorists and the victims of misfired rockets aimed at Israel.
The protesters also held up banners calling to end US military assistance to Israel and accusing Israeli forces of “genocide” in Gaza.
In Boston, about 100 protesters stopped traffic on the bridge connecting the city to Cambridge for more than two hours during the morning rush. They chanted “Ceasefire now!” and held a banner with the words: “Jews say: Ceasefire now,” and called on one of Massachusetts’ two senators, Democrat Elizabeth Warren, to do more to halt the hostilities.
On the West Coast, Aisha Nizar, of the Palestinian Youth Movement, said in a statement that Biden was “hosting cocktail parties in San Francisco” while thousands of people were being killed in Gaza. Protesters unfurled huge banners and some of them lay on the ground with white sheets draped over their bodies as part of a “die-in.”
ALERT: The Boston University Bridge at Commonwealth Avenue is shut down until further notice due to protestors, diverting all traffic, including ambulances, away from the area. pic.twitter.com/Kbvx81xxkl
— Only In Boston (@OnlyInBOS) November 16, 2023
Beauchamp, of the highway patrol, called the Bay Area protest highly coordinated and said he expected that more participants would be arrested. He said the patrol supports free speech rights but not a traffic shutdown that could prevent emergency vehicles from crossing.
“This is the wrong way to do it,” he said. “This is 100% wrong, it’s unacceptable and it’s illegal.”
Demonstrations over the war are becoming more disruptive across the US. Protesters calling for a ceasefire clashed with police Wednesday outside Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC. where Democratic representatives and candidates were attending a reception.
The protests came as Israeli forces dropped leaflets warning Palestinians to flee parts of southern Gaza, residents said Thursday, signaling a possible expansion of the Israeli offensive following the Hamas-led attacks in Israel last month.