SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A day after a protest that created the worst Bay Bridge backup in recent memory, whether the two dozen activists who were taken into custody will actually face any punishment remained in question.
Traffic came to a stand still Monday afternoon when protesters blocked all four westbound lanes of the Bay Bridge.
Protesters announced just before 4 p.m. they had shut down Bay Bridge traffic heading into San Francisco. They posted photos of several protesters chained to cars stopped across the bridge just before Treasure Island.
Members of protest groups Black Seed and the Black Queer Liberation Collective took responsibility for the protest in a statement, citing recent police shootings.
The 24 protesters arrested and booked into San Francisco County Jail Monday were released just before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning. All were charged with four misdemeanor counts each.
“These are crimes that carry with them penalties of up to six months to a year each,” said San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi.
Still, there stands a good chance the activists will not be punished beyond the hours they spent in custody.
Alicia Bell of the activist group Black Seed was one of those arrested Monday. She said she was hopeful her group would not end up spending any time in jail.
“We’re working currently with legal support, and I am confident in those folks,” said Bell.
Bay Area prosecutors do have a history of leniency towards protests. Black Lives Matter protesters who shut down BART service at the West Oakland station on Black Friday the day after Thanksgiving in 2014 were arrested, but charges were eventually dropped by Alameda County.
When asked if she thought charges against Bay Bridge protesters would be dropped in light of what happened to activists involved in the Black Friday protest, Bell replied “I hope so.”
Adachi usually takes on such cases, though these protesters have attorneys of their own already. He said he felt charges were unwarranted.
“I don’t think they should be charged,” said Adachi. “Protests are as long a history as this country, so it shouldn’t be surprising if the District Attorney drops the charges. People are going to protest no matter what the consequences.”
The San Francisco District Attorney’s office did not offer comment Tuesday on what action it might take. These cases have been known to go on for a year or more before any final decision is made.