social justice

Charges dismissed against Bay Bridge protesters

Charges against 25 protesters who stopped traffic on the Bay Bridge in January were dismissed Friday morning by a San Francisco Superior Court judge, according to an attorney representing the group.

The group, known collectively as the Bay Bridge 25, was arrested on Jan. 18 on the bridge on suspicion of misdemeanors, including obstructing traffic on a freeway, public nuisance and unlawful assembly, in addition to having their cars impounded.

The group had blocked all westbound lanes of the bridge for about 30 minutes by chaining themselves together and to several cars just before 4 p.m. in an effort to call attention to fatal police shootings that have occurred in the Bay Area and across the nation.

All 25 individuals arrested were ultimately charged by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office with infractions, including pedestrian failing to yield the right of way, failure to obey signs, stopping or parking a vehicle on a freeway and walking upon a vehicular crossing, according to the group’s attorney Hasmik Geghamyan.

A judge however dismissed the charges against them this morning in deference of justice, Geghamyan said.

Ben Jones, a San Francisco resident who was among the 25 protesters arrested said he was glad the charges were dismissed by a judge, but wished the city’s District Attorney’s Office hadn’t pressed charges in the first place:

“It would have made sense if the DA explicitly took a stance, in favor of the right to protest, but I’m glad the judge had the good sense and morality to dismiss the charges.”

On Thursday, Max Szabo, a spokesman for the District Attorney’s Office, said that the office had chosen to charge the group with infractions, which are typically heard in traffic court, rather than misdemeanors after:

“… balancing their free speech rights with the danger posed to themselves and others by blocking the Bay Bridge. … We support their right to protest, but their choice of venue created the potential for significant danger.”

Jones, who is part of the group black.seed, which he described as a queer and trans-led black liberation group, argued that the event was safe and well coordinated, thanks to the help of numerous allies who helped plan the event and were not arrested.

The protest on the bridge was one of a series of actions taking place around Martin Luther King, Jr. Day earlier this year, led by black.seed and other groups. They groups called for the termination and charging of officers involved in fatal police shootings including that of Mario Woods in San Francisco in December, as well as the resignation or termination of other local officials.

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