Since when can't we wear a sign that says, "NO WAR." What is going on? The code is more than pink.
Anti-war protesters disrupt Golden Gate Bridge traffic
Thursday, September 21, 2006
(09-21) 11:50 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- About 40 peace activists, many of them dressed in pink and flashing peace signs, slowed traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge this morning and got into minor clashes with police.
No one was arrested during the hour-and-a-half protest -- organized by the anti-war group Code Pink as part of International Peace Day -- but bridge authorities did confiscate signs and banners they said would distract drivers and slow traffic even more.
There were also two minor collisions on the northbound side of the highway during the protest, which began at 8 a.m., according to Golden Gate Bridge police Capt. Mike Locati. He said he could not definitively link the fender-benders to the political action, but told protesters "I could probably attribute them to ... you folks."
The crowd of men, women and children -- who ranged in age from 8 to 78 -- and one pink-clad dog gathered at both ends of the bridge, many of them sporting letters pinned to their shirts that spelled out slogans such as "NO WAR." But police officers said the group -- which was offered a permit to carry small signs, but not until after 10 a.m. -- would have to remove the letters or be arrested.
"How can we be a danger to traffic at 10 a.m., but not at 8 a.m.?" asked Sam Joi, adding that they insisted on the earlier hour to catch rush-hour drivers. "It's like saying you can flyer an empty parking lot, or hold a concert with no music."
As Locati talked to the protesters on the south end of the bridge, two California Highway Patrol officers unfurled a chain of handcuffs in front of a CHP van. About a dozen uniformed CHP and Golden Gate Bridge officers were milling around.
"I really feel strongly about ending the war (in Iraq)," said 17-year-old Cecily Bauer, who said she is homeschooled in Albany.
"Oh wonderful," she added as she caught sight of the long line of handcuffs. "I've never seen anything like this before. ...They're trying to intimidate us."
Most people complied with authorities' demands, giving their signs to police officers who searched the protesters as they entered the bridge. Instead, the group flashed peace signs with their hands to passing traffic; many drivers honked and waved peace signs back.
Five women, however, hid the "NO WAR" letters under their clothes and pinned the signs to their chests after the groups from both sides met in the middle of the bridge.
A few minutes later, two Golden Gate Bridge bicycle officers noticed the signs and pedaled over. One of the officers -- who would only identify himself as badge number 13 -- ripped one of the signs from a woman' hands, tried to unpin the sign from another woman's chest and began exchanging words with protesters Toby Blome, Joi and several others.
"Give it to me," the officer said. "We told you no signs and you did it anyway. Give it to me now or you'll be arrested."
"Are we living in a fascist state or a democracy?" asked Blome.
Soon, three Golden Gate Bridge Transportation and Highway Authority cars pulled up and blocked the right lane of traffic. Locati got out of one of the cars and asked the protesters to move along, threatening to arrest them for loitering if they didn't.
"You could arrest them but it wouldn't be popular," Locati said to a CHP officer quietly as the protesters decided whether to stay. Technically, CHP officers must arrest people on the bridge, though bridge police do have the authority to detain people.
In the end, the protesters moved on, unfurling a sign over the east side of the bridge momentarily on the way back to their cars.
"Everything went fine," said Locati.