Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community
We Can't Do It Without You!  
     
Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search
   
 
   Headlines  
 

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article
 
 
Anti-War Rally Ties Up Golden Gate Bridge
Published on Sunday, May 26, 2002 in the San Francisco Chronicle
Anti-War Rally Ties Up Golden Gate Bridge
Cops stop traffic to make arrests at Golden Gate
 

San Francisco -- An anti-war protest on the Golden Gate Bridge turned ugly Saturday when police stopped northbound traffic to arrest demonstrators, causing a backup several miles long.


Police arrest a man who identified himself as Raife Secret Squirrel, 19, of San Francisco on the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday. More than 30 were held at an anti-war rally that led to a backup miles long. Chronicle photo by Lacy Atkins
Authorities arrested 30 of the approximately 150 participants in the march, organized by the All People's Coalition to Stop U.S. Terror and Occupation.

The coalition, which represents a variety of left-wing causes -- including support for Palestinians and opposition to U.S. policy in Afghanistan and the Mideast -- had a permit to march from Crissy Field across the eastern walkway of the bridge and back between noon and 2 p.m.

But before the marchers finished crossing the bridge, the California Highway Patrol ordered them to turn around and leave the bridge or face immediate arrest.

When some of the demonstrators refused, the CHP began making arrests and closed some or all northbound lanes for the next half hour.

"They agreed to start their walk in time to complete it by 2 p.m.," said bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie.

The march was allowed on the condition that activists would not carry signs,

banners or noisemakers such as bullhorns or drums, said Currie. Officers stationed at the entrance to the bridge checked each protester and removed such items from some of them.

At 1:35 p.m., about 20 CHP officers clad in riot gear blocked the eastern walkway and told demonstrators to turn around. When the 150 marchers did not immediately obey, the CHP decided to force them to return.

Many refused and sat down while others chanted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" as officers moved in, carrying batons and using pepper spray. Police arrested some protesters, shoving others back.

Some demonstrators accused the highway patrol of overreacting and causing the traffic delays.

"This response was totally uncalled for -- it's a huge overreaction to a peaceful event," said co-organizer Wendy Snyder.

"We stayed on the sidewalk," said co-organizer Claudia Hernandez, 29, of Pinole. "We just wanted to finish the march and they began pushing us back."

CHP spokesman Sgt. Wayne Ziese said all but one of those arrested were booked on misdemeanor charges, including obstructing a walkway and resisting arrest. One girl, who told police she was 11 years old, was booked on a felony charge of assaulting an officer, and taken to juvenile hall, he said.

Ziese said the arrests were necessary to ensure that the protesters would be off the bridge by the 2 p.m. deadline.

"It was quite clear they were not going to be able to comply with that permit," Ziese said.

"They should have made it clear to us earlier," countered Bakaria Olatunji, chairman of the coalition. "If they had left us alone and let us finish, this would have all gone smoother, even if it took longer."

During the clash and the arrests that followed, traffic slowed dramatically.

Northbound traffic was stopped several times as the CHP parked police vans on northbound lanes. For about 20 minutes only one northbound lane was open, and for several minutes traffic in both directions was stopped to allow a police bus filled with arrestees to turn around on the bridge.

Authorities said cars were backed up throughout the Marina District all the way to Van Ness Avenue and along 19th Avenue into the Sunset District. Southbound traffic was also very slow from Sausalito to the bridge.

The arrests left many joggers and tourists confused. Some found themselves trapped behind police lines.

"I'm just appalled by the number of police for this little protest," said jogger Niki Chernin.

"I don't think these demonstrators presented any threat to anyone. The police are the ones who shut everything down. I would rather see all of these officers looking for terrorists in airports."

Until the confrontation with the CHP, traffic on the bridge appeared to be running smoothly, even though demonstrators chanted, waved and yelled slogans at northbound drivers.

"It looks like a normal busy weekend," said Sgt. Meg Planka, a few minutes before the confrontation. "It's busy but it's moving."

Many motorists waved and honked to show support for the demonstrators. Others were angered by the delays.

One woman riding in a Lexus SUV rolled down her window, screaming "Why did you do this? You ruined my day. What was the point?" When demonstrators tried to talk to her, she rolled up her window, folded her arms and shook her head from side to side.

Some media workers covering the event were also shoved by police. Cameraman J.C. Lockhart of KTVU was knocked down when a CHP officer shoved him as he tried to step around a cluster of demonstrators during the confrontation.

The first time a protest shut down the Golden Gate Bridge was in 1989, when several dozen AIDS activists stepped into rush-hour traffic to protest the slow pace of AIDS research.

Demonstrations against the U.S. role in the Persian Gulf War briefly shut down the bridge in 1991, prompting a move by legislators to pass a state law to fine demonstrators up to $10,000 for disrupting traffic on the span.

In 1996, actor Woody Harrelson and eight others tied up traffic for more than five hours when they scaled the bridge to make a point about redwood forests. Although the demonstrators did not block cars, authorities shut down lanes of the bridge to get Harrelson and the others down.

###

Printer Friendly Version E-Mail This Article

 
     
 
 

CommonDreams.org is an Internet-based progressive news and grassroots activism organization, founded in 1997.
We are a nonprofit, progressive, independent and nonpartisan organization.

Home | About Us | Donate | Signup | Archives | Search

To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Copyrighted 1997-2011