By KTVU Staff
OAKLAND, Calif. (FOX-35)- Pro-Palestine protesters shut down the Bay Bridge on Thursday morning, tying up traffic during the morning commute and calling out to world leaders to end the war in Gaza during the APEC Summit.
The hourslong event ended with about 50 to 75 arrests, with CHP officers putting protesters in zip ties and loading them onto agency buses. Many of the protesters left their cars on the bridge and threw their keys into the bay, to make it difficult for officers ot move the cars, according to CHP Cmdr David Hoff.
The charges will have to be sorted out by the San Francisco District Attorney, Hoff said.
"We were not caught off guard," Hoff said adamantly at an impromptu news conference on the bridge. "We were there in minutes."
Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney said that the protest will impact traffic all day long and he suggested that commuters check out maps and hotlines before they head out on the road.
The Arab Resource and Organizing Center organized the blockage, demanding a ceasefire, and calling out President Joe Biden to do more for the Palestinians, 11,000 of whom have so far died in the war between Israel and Hamas.
"There’s a genocide happening in #Gaza and @POTUS is hosting cocktail parties in #SanFrancisco," AROC tweeted. "Bay Area has shut down the Bay Bridge to demand #CeasefireNOW. No more $ for genocide."
Many chained themselves together, chanting "Free Palestine" and "We want justice."
A KTVU cameraman managed to walk along the span of the bridge, taking video of protesters lying in body bags, with fake blood smeared on them. Protesters called out for justice, decrying Israelis as colonizers.
In an interview from the bridge, Aisha Mizar, an organizer with the Palestinian Youth Movement, said they were very excited to be out on the bridge, west of Treasure Island, gaining attention for their cause. She said they would all stay out as long as they could, before they were kicked off.
As she tells it, Mizar said the commuters didn't seem to mind not being able to move for more than an hour – although that was heavily disputed on social media with people complaining about the traffic nightmare.
AROC is the same group that protested at the Port of Oakland earlier this month.
Marco Sermoneta, the San Francisco-based Consul General of Israel, called the group "vehemently antisemitic."
He compared what the protesters did on the bridge – preventing thousands of people from getting to work, the airport and other important places – to the peaceful demonstration of about 290,000 Jews and allies earlier this week in Washington, D.C., asking for the release of 240 Israeli hostages.
"Calling for a ceasefire is basically telling Israel to stop fighting Hamas and the atrocities that it committed on Oct. 7," Sermoneta said.
Sermoneta said that, as a representative of the government of Israel, he also doesn't want innocent people to die. But he said Israel is left with no choice.
Hamas is "an organization that not only commits war crimes when it shoots indiscriminately at Israeli homes and they continue to fire missiles and rockets, by the way, as we speak," Sermoneta said. "It is also an organization that doesn't care about the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. And therefore, unfortunately, anything that happens in Gaza, including to the civilians… is squarely the responsibility of Hamas."
CHP Officer Art Montiel told KTVU that the protesters chained themselves to the bridge as early as 7:45 a.m. And arrests began in earnest about 9:30 a.m.
CHP officers were seen in riot gear surrounding the group, telling them to disperse over a megaphone. They eventually detangled protesters who had chained themselves together.
As for how this could have happened with the CHP being caught unaware?
Montiel first explained that the CHP had been planning for APEC for a while and had closed one lane on the bridge as a preventative measure.
But he added that this protest was "very well planned" and the protesters sought out "an area where there were no units."
"We can't get everything right 100%," Montiel said.