Anti-Israel activists block bridges in NYC, California, halt Chicago airport traffic

Dozens arrested as demonstrators also block roads in Philadelphia, Oregon, Sea-Tac airport and elsewhere, as part of global ‘multi-city blockade’ in support of Palestinians

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators calling for a ceasefire in Gaza block the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, April 15, 2024. (Daniel Slim/CBS/AFPTV/AFP)

CHICAGO, Illinois  — Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators blocked roadways in Illinois, California, New York and the Pacific Northwest on Monday, temporarily shutting down as part of a coordinated day of action against Israel’s war in Gaza.

In Chicago, protesters linked arms and blocked lanes of Interstate 190 leading into O’Hare International Airport around 7 a.m. in a demonstration they said was part of a global “economic blockade to free Palestine,” according to Rifqa Falaneh, one of the organizers.

Traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area was snarled for hours as demonstrators shut down all vehicle, pedestrian and bike traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge and chained themselves to 55-gallon drums filled with cement across Interstate 880 in Oakland.

Similar protests were held across the United States and around the world, after the group A15 Action called for coordinating a “multi-city blockade… in solidarity with Palestine.”

“In each city, we will identify and blockade major choke points in the economy, focusing on points of production and circulation with the aim of causing the most economic impact,” the group said on its website.

Protesters marching into Brooklyn blocked Manhattan-bound traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. In Eugene, Oregon, protesters blocked Interstate 5, shutting down traffic on the major highway for about 45 minutes. Protesters also blocked roads Monday in Philadelphia, and anti-Israel rallies were held in Los Angeles and other locations.

Demonstrators chant slogans at an outdoor shopping mall in downtown Los Angeles during a “Strike for Gaza” protest calling for the US to stop funding Israel and for a permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict, on April 15, 2024, in Los Angeles, California. (Robyn Beck / AFP)

Near Seattle, the Washington State Department of Transportation said a demonstration closed the main road to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Social media posts showed people holding a banner and waving Palestinian flags while standing on the highway, which reopened about three hours later.

Protests were also planned in Canada, Italy, South Korea, Colombia and Belgium, while the X account for A15 posted photos of demonstrations in Greece, Spain and Australia.

Demonstrators who were blocking traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge held a banner reading “Stop the world for Gaza.”

“We know that money is really what speaks to (elected leaders),” an organizer, who gave her name as Hayshawiya, told the San Francisco Chronicle from the bridge, adding they would stay until the police forced them out.

About 20 protesters were arrested at the Golden Gate Bridge demonstration and traffic resumed shortly after noon, according to the California Highway Patrol. The agency said officers were making arrests at two points on the interstate, including one spot where roughly 300 protesters refused orders to disperse.

“Attempting to block or shut down a freeway or state highway to protest is unlawful, dangerous, and prevents motorists from safely reaching their destinations,” the agency said in a statement.

Oregon State Police said 52 protestors were were arrested for disorderly conduct following the Interstate 5 protest in Eugene, Oregon, about 110 miles (177 kilometers) south of Portland. Six vehicles were towed from the scene.

New York Police made numerous arrests, saying 150 protesters were initially involved in the march around 3:15 p.m., but that number quickly grew. The bridge was fully reopened by 5 p.m.

A pro-Palestinian protester tries to grab an American flag from pro-Israel supporters as a police officer tries to intervene during a demonstration outside The New York Stock Exchange on Monday, April 15, 2024, in New York. (AP/Andres Kudacki)

In Chicago, dozens of protesters were arrested, according to Falaneh. Chicago police said Monday that “multiple people” were taken into custody after a protest where people obstructed traffic, but they did not have a detailed count.

Protesters say they chose the location, in part, because O’Hare is one of the largest airports. Among other things, they’ve called for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

O’Hare had warned travelers on the social platform X to take alternative forms of transportation with car travel “substantially delayed this morning due to protest activity.”

Some travelers stuck in standstill traffic left their cars and walked the final leg to the airport along the freeway, trailing their luggage behind them.

Among them was Madeline Hannan from suburban Chicago. She was headed to O’Hare for a work trip to Florida, when her and her husband’s car ended up stalled for 20 minutes. She got out and “both ran and speed walked” more than one mile. She said she made it to the gate on time, but barely.

Heavy traffic is seen at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, on April 15, 2024, due to pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocking a freeway leading to three terminals. (AP/Nam Y. Huh)

“This was an inconvenience,” she said in a telephone interview from Florida. “But in the grand scheme of things going on overseas, it’s a minor inconvenience.”

While individual travelers may have been affected, operations at the airport appeared near normal with delays of under 15 minutes, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Inbound traffic toward O’Hare resumed around 9 a.m.

Anti-Israel protesters have held near daily demonstrations in Chicago since the war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air, and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, mostly civilians.

Vowing to destroy Hamas and return the hostages, Israel launched a wide-scale offensive in Gaza that the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 33,729 Palestinians, mostly women and children. These figures cannot be independently verified, and are believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, including as a consequence of terror groups’ own rocket misfires. Israel says it has killed more than 13,000 terrorists inside Gaza and a further 1,000 in Israel on October 7.

The IDF says 260 soldiers have been killed in the ground operation in Gaza since October 7.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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