SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Demonstrators seeking a cease-fire in Gaza blocked bridges on both sides of the U.S. on Thursday, including a major span into San Francisco during a global trade summit involving President Joseph 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 cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.
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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 “cease-fire now!” and held a banner with the words “Jews say: ceasefire now” and they 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 President 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.”
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 U.S. Protesters calling for a cease-fire clashed with police Wednesday outside Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., where Democratic representatives and candidates were inside for 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 Hamas-led attacks in Israel on Oct. 7.
Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.
For more AP coverage of the Israel-Hamas war: https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war