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Legal Organizations Condemn Local Repression Against Anti-Genocide Protestors 

On April 15, Tax Day, activists across the globe took action calling for an end to the U.S.-funded genocide in Gaza, including on San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. While peaceful protests were happening in 81 cities and 19 countries, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) took the extraordinary step of jailing the San Francisco protestors on trumped up felony conspiracy charges.  

The undersigned legal organizations condemn the move by law enforcement to preemptively punish San Francisco protestors, which resulted in their incarceration for nearly 48 hours during a jail lockdown. Despite releasing the 26 protestors, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins continues to threaten them with “false imprisonment” charges. To prop up a politically-motivated and repressive prosecution, she is soliciting “victims” who were driving on the bridge to come forward with the enticement of obtaining monetary restitution against the peace activists, ostensibly for the traffic inconvenience. This is unprecedented. 

This is all part of Jenkins’ and Mayor Breed’s political posturing to appear “tough on crime” in response to right-wing efforts to taint SF as crime-ridden and without regard for true safety and human needs. At the same time, we see Jenkins echoing right wing Senator Tom Cotton’s urging of people whose routes were blocked to use violence against peaceful Palestine protestors. We also see growing repression against those who dare criticize Israel and speak out against the genocide nationwide from college campuses to tech companies. But while elected officials and universities eviscerate academic freedom and free speech in service to supporters of genocide, the movement for Palestine will not be silenced.  

The Golden Gate 26 took a courageous stand against the U.S.’ unconditional support for Israel’s war on Gaza that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians in the last six months, including more than 13,000 children, and has injured at least 76,000. Israel’s bombing is the most destructive bombardment in modern history and has leveled hospitals, schools, places of worship, homes, universities, refugee camps, and UN safe havens, shattering almost all other essential attributes of a civil society, and destroying or damaging more than 70 percent of all housing in Gaza. Israel has created an open-air prison, trapping and then committing genocide on the 1.5 million trapped Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians have been abducted by Israel and are being tortured in Israeli prisons, including women and children. President Biden has refused to listen to the majority of Americans who want a ceasefire even while the atrocities continue to mount.  

While it is inconvenient for people to be caught in commuter traffic, the real crime public officials must address is the genocide taking place in Gaza backed by U.S. weapons and U.S. funding. On January 9, 2024, San Francisco passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire. On January 26th, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the world’s highest court and the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, found that Israel’s actions “appear to be capable of falling within the provisions of the Genocide Convention” and ordered Israel to take measures to ensure its military does not commit genocide and enable humanitarian aid to Gaza. But the slaughter has continued unabated. Famine has set in due to Israel’s blockade and children, babies, and mothers are starving to death. Israel has launched an attack on Rafah, where most of Gaza’s population has been forced to seek refuge in tents. Israel’s very first strikes on Rafah killed 22 people – 18 of them children and one a pregnant woman. 

Protest and civil disobedience have been pivotal in bringing about social change throughout U.S. history – and generations of Bay Area residents have been part of this struggle. As U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White stated in his January 31 opinion agreeing with the ICJ that Israel’s actions may plausibly constitute a genocide in violation of international law, “It is every individual’s obligation to confront the current siege in Gaza.” The Golden Gate 26, and the other April 15 protestors, acted on this obligation. We condemn CHP’s overcharging and Jenkins’ posturing as attempts to silence those calling for an end to U.S. complicity in genocide, and demand that all charges against Palestine protestors be dropped immediately.  

Partnership for Civil Justice Fund and its project, the Center for Protest Law & Litigation 
Center for Constitutional Rights 
Legal Solidarity Bay Area 
National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter 
Palestine Legal 
Walter Riley, civil rights attorney