Protesters in favor of a cease-fire in Gaza block the westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge, Nov. 16, 2023. (Photo/Brooke Anderson-Courtesy AROC)
Protesters in favor of a cease-fire in Gaza block the westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge, Nov. 16, 2023. (Photo/Brooke Anderson-Courtesy AROC)

Activists seeking Gaza cease-fire shut down Bay Bridge amid APEC summit

Pro-Palestinian activists chained themselves to the Bay Bridge during Thursday morning rush hour, temporarily shutting down all traffic from the East Bay into San Francisco.

The demonstration came as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit brought diplomats and world leaders, including President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the city.

Video shared on X showed roughly a dozen cars blocking bridge lanes, as well as scores of people, some linked together and others holding banners that read “Stop genocide” and “No US military aid to Israel.” The Palestinian Youth Movement, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) claimed responsibility for the demonstration, which also included people lying down in the road with white sheets draped over their bodies in a “die-in.”

The California Highway Patrol began arresting protesters later in the morning and tow trucks were on the scene to move protesters’ vehicles, NBC Bay Area reported. The protest started around 7:40 a.m. The CHP said all protesters had been taken into custody by 9:22 a.m., according to NBC Bay Area. But traffic was backed up for hours afterward.

“There’s a genocide happening in Gaza and [Biden] is hosting cocktail parties in San Francisco,” stated an X post from AROC, which supports boycotts of Israel. “Bay Area has shut down the Bay Bridge to demand #CeasefireNOW. No more $ for genocide.”

“Dozens are shutting the bridge down during commute hours, demanding a ceasefire in Gaza while Biden is here in San Francisco,” JVP Bay Area said in an X post.

The demonstration is the latest from Bay Area activists calling for an Israeli cease-fire in its war against Hamas in Gaza. On Monday, JVP co-organized a sit-in at a federal office building in downtown Oakland that led to hundreds of arrests, JVP said.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll of Americans showed 68% agree with the statement that “Israel should call a ceasefire and try to negotiate.”

According to the Hamas-run health ministry, Israel has killed more than 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza since Oct. 7. On that day, Hamas terrorists massacred about 1,200 people in southern Israel and took an estimated 240 hostages into Gaza.

Calls for an immediate cease-fire have failed to win widespread support in Congress or from the American Jewish community’s institutions. Cease-fire opponents point out that Hamas still holds hostages and that its leadership has stated Hamas will repeat the Oct. 7 attacks if given the opportunity.

The Bay Bridge demonstration drew criticism from the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, a 75-year-old civic group that describes itself as the “largest collective voice of the Jewish community” in the region.

“These types of distractions are undermining the work that all of our elected and civic leaders are doing” to host the APEC conference, said Tye Gregory, JCRC Bay Area’s CEO. “In our view they are hijacking a legitimate international gathering.

He added: “There’s nothing peaceful about freezing the conflict where it is right now. We have 240 hostages underground and Hamas is committed to repeating the pogrom of Oct. 7.”

Gregory also criticized the language frequently heard at pro-Palestinian protests in the Bay Area and across the country.

“They are coupling their calls for a cease-fire with ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” Gregory said. “If you combine those two things, it reads like, ‘put down your weapons so we can kill you.’”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.