On Monday afternoon, protesters claiming affiliation with the Black Lives Matter movement staged a protest briefly blocking traffic on the Bay Bridge linking San Francisco and Oakland, California.
The protesters, who belong to the “black queer liberation collective” Black.Seed, shut down westbound traffic into San Francisco for about 30 minutes holding a sign that read “Black Health Matters” reportedly in commemoration of Martin Luther King Day. Traffic was snarled for miles stretching well beyond the length of the bridge.
“Over the last few years, we have seen San Francisco and Oakland destroyed by police murders, rising housing costs, rapid gentrification, and apathetic city officials. Last year, we saw dozens of police murders throughout the Bay Area; since June of 2015 in Oakland alone there have been eight Black men murdered by police,” the group wrote in a statement posted on the website of the Anti Police-Terror Project. “Today Black.Seed celebrates and honors the radical legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Historically, our people have had to take drastic and dramatic measures to highlight the systemic abuses that harm our communities.”
The San Francisco Examiner reports that a statement by Black.Seed spokesperson Mia Birdsong indicated the protest involved 50 to 600 people and was intended to “[remind the] powerful what it is to be powerless.”
The demonstrators blocked five lanes of traffic on the bridge by chaining a quintet of cars together across the span. The protesters told the San Francisco Chronicle they had initially planned to maintain the blockage for 96 minutes in honor of the 96 hours of additional protests planned across the San Francisco Bay Area throughout the weekend. The demonstrators were taken away by California Highway Patrol officials after about a half hour.
In an interview with KTVU, a Caltrans spokesperson called the protest “highly unusual, but quite peaceful.”
Earlier in the day, another protest triggered the closure of an off-ramp of Interstate 80 in nearby Emeryville, California.
The protesters decried police violence against African-Americans across the country, but also specifically called for the resignation, among others, of San Francisco Police Department Chief Greg Shur over the department’s handling of the shooting death of Mario Woods.
SFPD’s shooting of Woods, which occurred last month, has drawn international attention. Woods, who was allegedly brandishing a knife at the time of his death, was shot multiple times by five officers. However, video produced by John Burris, a well-known civil rights attorney representing Woods’ family, indicates Woods had his hands at his side at when police opened fire.
Outrage over the incident has triggered the department to shift its policies in favor of officers carrying and using Tasers. However, activists have remained largely unsatisfied.
A protest about the city’s handling of Woods’ death, along with a wave of evictions that have accompanied recent gentrification in the region, interrupted a speech being given by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee honoring the life of Dr. King.