California Lawmakers Propose Penalties for Anti-Israel Protesters Who Blocked Golden Gate Bridge Traffic

California lawmakers propose bill to double fines for protesters blocking highways, sparking debate over free speech rights and public safety.

author-image
Emmanuel Abara Benson
Updated On
New Update
California Lawmakers Propose Penalties for Anti-Israel Protesters Who Blocked Golden Gate Bridge Traffic

California Lawmakers Propose Penalties for Anti-Israel Protesters Who Blocked Golden Gate Bridge Traffic

California lawmakers have introduced a bill, Assembly Bill 2742, that would increase penalties for protesters who block freeways and prevent emergency vehicles from passing.

The bill, authored by Republican Assemblywoman Kate Sanchez, would impose a $200 fine for those blocking the freeway, with the fine increasing to up to $1,000 for multiple offenses within a three-year period.

The legislation was proposed in response to anti-Israel protesters who shut down traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for around five hours on Monday, April 22, 2024. The protest was part of a series of coordinated demonstrations organized by A15 Action, an international campaign calling for a general economic blockade to draw attention to the conflict in Palestine. A total of 26 people were arrested, and prosecutors are considering additional charges.

San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins urged those affected by the bridge closure to contact the California Highway Patrol to be considered as victims entitled to 'restitution' under California's Marsy's Law. The protesters were released after being detained for nearly 48 hours, and A15 Action called the conspiracy charges 'unfounded' and an intimidation tactic to 'chill the exercise of First Amendment rights.'

Why this matters: The protests and subsequent legislative response highlight the ongoing tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the balance between free speech rights and public safety. The proposed bill has sparked debate about the effectiveness and fairness of increasing penalties for highway protests.

Assemblywoman Sanchez argued that these highway blockings are dangerous and could lead to someone getting killed. She countered critics who believe the bill is an example of leaders in Sacramento being 'soft on crime,' stating that its passage would lead to a better sense of balance. However, some opponents like Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations argue that the bill would 'quell First Amendment activity.' Governor Gavin Newsom has spoken out against the recent protests on the Golden Gate Bridge, saying people should be held accountable, but also respecting First Amendment rights.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Transportation Committee, with support from four Democrats, shortly after the Golden Gate Bridge protest. It now moves to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for further consideration. As the legislation advances, the debate over the appropriate response to disruptive protests and the protection of free speech is expected to continue in California and beyond.

Key Takeaways

  • CA bill proposes to double fines for protesters blocking highways
  • Bill introduced after a 5-hour protest on Golden Gate Bridge
  • Prosecutors considering additional charges against 26 arrested
  • Debate over balancing free speech rights and public safety
  • Bill approved by Assembly Transportation Committee, moves forward