A regional division chief of the California Highway Patrol responded to at least four collisions resulting from protesters' shutdown of the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a CHP spokesman said today.
CHP Golden Gate Division Chief Avery Browne assisted in four minor collisions he encountered while responding to the protests, which started in the bridge's westbound lanes at 4:50 p.m. Monday, CHP spokesman Officer Daniel Hill said.
The "Black Lives Matter" protesters from Stanford University were dropped off near the end of the westbound span and briefly blocked both sides of the bridge.
Protesters said they were honoring King's legacy and called for a demilitarization of local law enforcement and funds to support community-based alternatives to incarceration.
They said they planned to hold the bridge for 28 minutes, symbolic of the oft-cited statistic in recent protests that a black person is killed every 28 hours by a police officer, private security guard or vigilante.
They flew Palestinian and Mexican flags during the demonstration, drawing parallels between their struggles and those of minority communities in the U.S.
Hill said 68 protesters did not leave the bridge when ordered to and were arrested. It took 25 minutes to get even a single lane of the bridge opened as 30 CHP units responded to the protests.
The backups from the protests caused some rear-end collisions resulting in property damage and minor injuries. Some drivers fled from the crash scene and none of the crashes were severe, Hill said.
While responding to the protests, Browne assisted drivers in making reports and exchanging insurance information, Hill said.
The 68 protesters arrested were cited with blocking a freeway and creating a public nuisance and then released. They were ordered to appear in court in late February or early March, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
The district attorney's office is still waiting for individual reports on the protesters from the CHP to make charging decisions, which could take weeks, Wagstaffe said.
Prosecutors will take the crashes on the bridge into account when making their decision, Wagstaffe said, since they are cases of specific harm to individuals in the crowd of hundreds or possibly thousands delayed by the protesters.