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Protesters Shut Down I-880 Freeway in Oakland as Part of 'Economic Blockade' for Gaza

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Demonstrators shut down the southbound lanes of I-880 Monday morning in West Oakland. The protesters, engaging in a multi-city 'economic blockade in solidarity with Palestine,' marched from the West Oakland BART station to the 7th Street on-ramp and onto the freeway. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Update, 2:05 p.m.:
As traffic starts moving again — albeit slowly through previously blocked sections of Interstate 880 in Oakland and U.S. 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge — officials with the California Highway Patrol said certain methods used by protesters necessitated an “intricate operation” and made things particularly difficult for law enforcement.

In a statement posted to Facebook, CHP said the protesters who shut down northbound I-880 at Embarcadero had chained themselves to 55-gallon drums filled with cement. The protesters who shut down the Golden Gate Bridge chained themselves to stationary vehicles, the statement said.

CHP officials said arrests of protesters who blocked southbound I-880 in West Oakland and refused orders to disperse are ongoing. Approximately 20 people were arrested at the Golden Gate Bridge, according to the statement, and CHP promised arrests of the protesters who chained themselves to the drums of cement.

California Highway Patrol officers arrest a demonstrator who joined approximately 300 protesters in blocking southbound I-880 in West Oakland Monday morning. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Update, 1:10 p.m.:
Traffic is trickling through on northbound I-880 in Oakland. Two lanes are now open, but protesters and CHP officers remain on the roadway.

One lane of southbound I-880 in West Oakland has just been reopened, with two lanes remaining blocked, according to CHP.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, both directions of the Golden Gate Bridge are open again after protesters blocked traffic for more than four hours.

Original story:
Beginning shortly before 7 a.m. Monday, protesters blocked all lanes of the northbound I-880 freeway in Oakland north of the 23rd Ave exit to decry Israel’s ongoing military assault and blockade of Gaza.

Dozens of activists converged on the freeway and sat in the roadway, with CHP officers in riot gear gathering in front of and behind the demonstrators.

Another group of approximately 300 protesters marched from the West Oakland BART station onto southbound I-880 via the 7th Street on-ramp at about 8 a.m., effectively shutting down both directions of the freeway through Oakland. By 9:45 a.m. California Highway Patrol officers were attempting to disperse the demonstrators. At least one protester has been arrested.

“Calls for a ceasefire and for aid to be let in [to Gaza] have been unheard,” said Hay Sha Wiya Falcon, a Bay Area-based Lakota activist who joined the West Oakland demonstrators. “It’s very clear if you look at who’s funding our representatives… money is what talks to them. And I think to have this worldwide economic blockade, which has spread to 55 cities and six continents, the world is speaking very loudly about what we want to see, and that’s a liberated Palestine.”

Monday’s action is part of a multi-city coordinated economic protest, referred to as A15, aiming to disrupt local and global economies in order to put pressure on people and governments to divest from Israel and weapons manufacturers that supply its military.

Traffic backs up as protesters shut down the southbound lanes of I-880 Monday morning in West Oakland, just before the Broadway/Alameda off-ramp. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

“Oakland remains a place where we rebel against all of the injustices carried out in the interest of the US led, global economy. We must do that now for Palestine,” organizers of the event in Oakland wrote in an Instagram post ahead of the protest. “Clog the arteries of capital! Free Palestine!”

“I’m a health care worker, and one of the things that has been most disturbing to me about the genocide that’s happening in Palestine is the total disregard for human life,” said Mike Sweeney, who joined the West Oakland protesters. “The Israeli military is essentially… destroying every pillar of health and wellness in Palestine, destroying hospitals… specifically targeting centers of healing [including] doctors and nurses. I’ve never seen this level of violence in my life. And so that’s why I’m here.”

On Instagram, A15 organizers said their effort was born out of “frustration with symbolic actions” and that their goals are to “cause impact to the global economy complicit in genocide.”

Related actions are planned throughout the Bay Area on Monday, including at Warm Springs Bart station at 5:30 p.m., when protesters plan to march to the Fremont Tesla factory.

In San Francisco, dozens of protesters shut down all southbound lanes across the Golden Gate Bridge at 7:30 a.m. Organizers also plan to hold a rally at noon in United Nations Plaza and march to the Internal Revenue Service offices to hold a teach-in.

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Outside the Bay Area, protesters demonstrated similar economic blockades on Monday in Seattle, San Diego, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Chicago, Tallahassee and internationally in Mexico City, Melbourne, Ho Chi Minh City, Johannesburg and others.

Numerous protests blocking major freeways and other transportation arteries had occurred around the Bay Area since Israel announced its military operations in Gaza, following Hamas’ attack on October 7 when approximately 1,200 Israelis were killed and 250 were taken hostage.

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 33,000 Palestinians have now been killed and millions displaced by more than six months of heavy Israeli attacks on the besieged territory. Gaza remains under military blockade by Israel, with members of the UN Security Council reiterating concerns over imminent famine there and calling for “the immediate lifting of all barriers to the delivery of humanitarian aid at scale to the civilian population.”

Protesters stand on the roadway of southbound I-880 in West Oakland Monday morning. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Past Bay Area pro-Palestinian protests have included a shutdown of the upper deck of the Bay Bridge in November to call for a cease-fire; in January, activists attempted to climb aboard and delayed a military supply shift from departing the Port of Oakland; and pro-Palestinian activists briefly blocked Highway 101 in San Francisco in February.

In March, protesters at San Francisco International Airport’s international terminal called for a cease-fire in Gaza and demanded divestment from the Israeli military.

United Nations officials have warned of a genocide in Gaza. Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last week, UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese presented a report entitled “Anatomy of a Genocide.”

“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the threshold indicating the commission of the crime of genocide … has been met,” she said, according to UN News.

This story has been updated.

KQED’s Annelise Finney and Sara Hossaini contributed to this story.

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