Dozens of protesters were arrested on Thursday after shutting down a portion of the San Francisco Bay Bridge as part of a demonstration calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
The protest blocked all westbound traffic on the bridge – a key commuter route into the city that sees roughly 260,000 vehicles daily – as San Francisco hosts the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum. The city has seen numerous demonstrations in response to the forum from activists decrying corporate profits, environmental abuses and the Israel-Hamas war.
Law enforcement said on Thursday morning that they were working to clear the bridge. The California highway patrol as well as police and sheriff’s deputies were on scene, NBC Bay Area reported, and arrested at least 50 protesters. Tow trucks had also arrived to remove their vehicles, the outlet said.
Organizers said 200 people attended the demonstration on Thursday morning. Footage posted on social media showed protesters had formed a human chain between vehicles as they sat on the bridge while others laid under white sheets as part of a “die-in” near bridge near a giant banner urging Joe Biden to call for a ceasefire now. They also displayed a large banner reading “stop the genocide” and demanded an end to US military aid to Israel.
Media captured footage of law enforcement in riot gear making their way across the bridge as sheriff’s deputies led a line of handcuffed-protesters toward buses. Other images showed protesters zip-tied on the bridge. Traffic on the bridge was entangled for several hours.
The California highway patrol did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but told the San Francisco Chronicle it planned to “press all the charges it can” against protesters. A spokesperson for the agency told the newspaper that at least 50 people were arrested and as many as 20 more people are likely to be arrested.
The protest comes amid demonstrations across the US as the death toll from the conflict continues to rise. Los Angeles, Seattle, Washington and New York have all seen mass gatherings in recent days calling for a ceasefire.
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!”, 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.
Since the Hamas attack on Israel in October that killed 1,200 people, the country’s military has launched a ground invasion and an intense bombing campaign in Gaza. According to Gaza’s health ministry, more than 11,200 Palestinians have been killed in recent weeks, two-thirds of them women and children.
Elsewhere in San Francisco on Thursday, demonstrations continued over the Apec forum as the global summit drew near its close. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that fighting broke out between supporters of Xi Jingping, who met with Joe Biden on the sidelines of the summit on Wednesday, and anti-Chinese Communist party protesters.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report