"We refuse to stand by as our elected officials pay for and cheer on the genocide of Palestinians," said one protester. "Biden must call for a cease-fire now."
Dozens of demonstrators demanding a cease-fire in Israel's war on Gaza were arrested Thursday after protesters blocked San Francisco-bound traffic on the Bay Bridge during morning rush hour and the ongoing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.
Members of activist groups including Palestinian Youth Movement, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Bay Area, and others blocked westbound lanes of the bridge with their vehicles before getting out of their cars and unfurling banners reading "Stop the Genocide" and "No U.S. Military Aid to Israel."
“We are beyond grief watching thousands of our loved ones murdered by the Israeli military. There is a genocide happening in Gaza, and President [Joe] Biden is hosting cocktail parties in San Francisco right now," Palestinian Youth Movement's Aisha Nizar said in a statement.
"We refuse to stand by as our elected officials pay for and cheer on the genocide of Palestinians. Biden must call for a cease-fire now," Nizar added.
Many protesters held signs or wore banners reading "The People Demand a Cease-Fire." Some staged a "die-in" on the roadway, while others locked themselves together and through open vehicle windows in what's known as a "sleeping dragon" maneuver as traffic on Interstate 80 and other area freeways stayed snarled for hours.
JVP said "at least" 50 people were arrested, a number corroborated by the California Highway Patrol.
"The Bay Area will not stop shutting things down until there is an immediate END to the bombing in Gaza," JVP Bay Area said on social media.
Ariel Koren, a leader of the #NoTechForApartheid movement, posted that "Biden will not get away with genocide, Biden will not get away with staying in San Francisco without EVERYONE knowing he is supporting the slaughter in Gaza."
Several protests against Israel's war on Gaza have taken place in the Bay Area in recent weeks, including marches and a Jewish-led takeover of a federal building in Oakland on Monday.
Multiple people detained by police said they had nothing to do with the demonstration. Among those claiming wrongful arrests were Stanford University physics professor Lauren Tompkins and Masoud Barukzai, a worker at San Francisco International Airport.
"As a citizen, this is absolutely disgusting, to be stripped of my rights," Barukzai—who says he believes he was arrested due to his appearance—toldThe San Francisco Chronicle.
Israel's relentless assault on Gaza has killed, maimed, or displaced nearly 40,000 Palestinians, with over 2,700 others missing—many of them presumed dead under the rubble. Half the homes in the besieged strip have been damaged or destroyed, while as many as 1.7 million people—around 70% of Gaza's population—have been forcibly displaced.
Biden—who spoke at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leader's Meeting in San Francisco Thursday morning—has rejected calls for a cease-fire while requesting $14.3 billion in additional military aid for Israel, atop the nearly $4 billion it already gets each year.
Biden—who has proclaimed his "unwavering" support for Israel—has also been accused of genocide denial for casting aspersions on Palestinian officials' Gaza casualty reports, even though his own administration has cited figures from the same agencies in recent reports.
A similar protest took place Thursday morning in Massachusetts, where the Jewish-led group IfNotNow Boston spearheaded a rush-hour blockage of Boston University Bridge.
"Every day brings more death, more starvation, more children losing limbs, more babies becoming orphans," the group said in an open letter demanding a Gaza cease-fire. "It is unbearable, our souls cry out against it."