Bay Bridge reopening after protesters chain themselves, shut down span


Highway police reopened three westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge that were blocked by protesters who brought traffic to a standstill Monday afternoon by chaining their vehicles across the five lanes of the busy span.

The protesters apparently drove onto the bridge in five cars around 4 p.m., stopping their cars near the new eastern span tower — one in each of the five lanes. Protesters stepped out and strung chain through each of the cars and across the lanes, forcing traffic to a halt well into the MacArthur Maze in the East Bay.

About 30 minutes after the bridge was blocked, police began arresting the protesters, who were placed in zip-tie handcuffs and moved to the shoulder of the highway so that three lanes could be reopened. About a dozen or more protesters were detained.

The protest group, an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter movement is “a black queer liberation collective” that calls themselves Black.Seed, Mia Birdsong, a spokeswoman for the group said.

“This action in particular was really about taking a strong, courageous stand in solidarity with MLK,” Birdsong said.

Protesters had planned to stay chained to the structure for 96 minutes to represent the 96 hours of action protests that took place in Oakland over the weekend. Traffic was stalled for about 30 minutes before authorities reopened some of the lanes.

The action occurred just after the California Highway Patrol shut down the eastbound I-80 Powell Street offramp in Emeryville during Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrations that began in Oakland and moved into Emeryville.

The CHP shut down the offramp as a different group of protesters marched along nearby Shellmound Street.

Chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, police brutality’s got to go,” and “Black lives matter,” the diverse crowd of activists have been marching peacefully all day along the East Bay streets, expressing outrage over what they called the unfair treatment of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

Then, shortly before 4 p.m., the second group of protesters, Black.Seed, formed a line, chaining themselves together to stop traffic in the afternoon commute.

Earlier, during the march to Emeryville, participants in the first protest group talked about why they spent the day demonstrating.

“We’re just trying to make the change we can and take it a day at a time,” said Nkei Oruche, marching with her husband and two children.

In the year since the last Martin Luther King Jr. Day, much has happened. In April, riots broke out in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black male who suffered a fatal spine injury during an arrest.

In June, the African American community decried an act of domestic terrorism after a white man gunned down nine black parishioners in Charleston, S.C., inside of a church, an act police continue to investigate as a hate crime.

In August, authorities called a state of emergency in Ferguson, Mo. as officers arrested enraged protesters fighting against what they called call racial bias after the shooting death of Michael Brown.

On Monday in Oakland, demonstrators started at 14th and Broadway around noon before going through West Oakland and heading into Emeryville.

“I’m just here as a black person representing my family,” Oruche said. “It’s important to start from an early age and let my kids know what’s important.

Victor Guendulain held up a sign that read “migrant workers for black resistance” as he walked coming up from San Jose to “draw attention to the issues that black folks are going through and make the connection to migrant workers who face similar police repression and intimidation.”

The crowd held up signs calling for reparations, black resistance, and black power as local residents looked on at the peaceful demonstration, some watching and welcoming it.

“I really respect how they’re making our rights known,” Olivia Duncan, a Hayward resident, said.

She came to visit her grandfather in West Oakland, joined by her 6-year-old daughter.

Will Delaney, a 71-year-old chess teacher and Vietnam veteran was walking his dogs as the crowd passed through the city, bound for Emeryville.

“I don’t mind that they’re here, but I wouldn’t get in that crowd,” he said. “I don’t believe in protests. “To me it seems like they’re just not effective.”

But as Excell Oliver, 68, watched the crowd with his 1-year-old grandson Lennar he said he was happy to see them.

“I think it’s good to see people walking together and celebrating any type of thing,” he said.