Protesters Halt Traffic, Demand Permanent Cease-Fire in Gaza

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A protest, urging a permanent cease-fire in Gaza, concluded after approximately 150 demonstrators disrupted traffic on I-76 westbound and the Spring Garden Street Bridge in Philadelphia on Thursday evening. The demonstration persisted for about three hours, initially blocking traffic on I-76 just before the onset of rush hour.

The protesters, who were coming from the Jewish Voice for Peace organization, strategically entered the highway, disembarked, and obstructed traffic, necessitating the intervention of Interim Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Stanford.

Simultaneously, demonstrators in Portland orchestrated a blockade on the Burnside Bridge, echoing the call for a Gaza ceasefire. This synchronized activism unfolded across various cities on the final night of Hanukkah.

Seattle witnessed the closure of the University Bridge as more than 100 members of the Jewish Voice for Peace effectively blocked all lanes. This action marked a segment of the ‘Eight Bridges for Eight Nights’ protest, mirroring similar bridge shutdowns in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, and Minneapolis, all part of the broader Jewish Voice for Peace movement.

Stanford stated that city officers collaborated with Pennsylvania State Police to apprehend around 32 individuals who were obstructing the highway. He noted that the protesters would be cited for blocking I-76.

A protester emphasized the necessity of blocking the highway to convey their message, stating, “I understand that it can be a challenge, and I also think that our lives need to be disrupted. I hope the people on 76 can understand that demanding a cease-fire and calling attention in every way that we can to the horrific situation in Gaza makes being stuck in traffic look not that important.”

During the rally, a speaker drew parallels between the Hanukkah story of the miracle of light and the hope they see in practice. Meanwhile, a PBOT traffic camera captured images of individuals and vehicles blocking West Burnside, displaying a sign that read “Ceasefire Now.”

The ceremonial lighting of a 12-foot menorah took center stage, symbolizing hope amid the darkness, especially for the people in Gaza. Catherine Petru, an organizer for the Jewish Voice for Peace Portland, expressed the sentiment, stating, “I think it means something different to each of us, but one association I have with the menorah and Hanukkah is that of miracles, and you could argue it would be miraculous for a ceasefire to happen now. We are calling on our elected(s) to do the same.”

While celebrating heritage and faith, the rally also served as a moment of reflection on lives lost in the conflict. A speaker at the rally commemorated those who have been killed, stating, “Candle eight. In remembrance of those who have been killed. We honor the memories of every Israeli and Palestinian who has been killed. We know that each life is precious. We mourn all these depths deeply.”

This coordinated action was part of a broader initiative by Jewish Voice for Peace and other Jewish-led groups, organizing bridge blockades in major cities across the United States.

As a celebration of finding light in the darkness, participants stressed the importance of this sentiment in the current situation. Zia Laboff, an organizer for the Jewish Voice for Peace Portland, mentioned, “We are bringing in song, just to be able to reach people in a different way.”

Portland police monitored the situation, reporting no arrests during the rally. After being removed from I-76, protesters staged a sit-in on the Spring Garden Street Bridge, chanting, singing, and holding signs that read “Let Gaza Live” and “Cease Fire Now.” The protest concluded with the group marching to the Art Museum steps.

Police described the protest as peaceful and maintained vigilance to ensure it remained so. Stanford emphasized, “It’s our responsibility to make sure they do it in a peaceful and as safe as possible way.” The demonstration led to traffic backups on I-76 near the Art Museum.

It’s noteworthy that Jewish Voice for Peace had previously held a sit-in at 30th Street Station on Nov. 2, causing delays for commuters and Amtrak riders.

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