When Anti-Israel Activists Shut Down American Streets, There Must Be Consequences

April 22, 2024

America is a nation of law and order. Yet, more and more, we are seeing U.S. cities overrun with lawless behavior—especially by Hamas sympathizers.

Just last week, anti-Israel demonstrators blocked access to highways, bridges, and airports in cities across the country, stranding hundreds of Americans in rush-hour traffic.

On San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, activists unfurled a banner that read “STOP THE WORLD FOR GAZA,” blocking traffic in both directions.

In San Antonio, activists blocked the entrance to energy company Valero’s headquarters for more than four hours.

In Chicago, protesters displaying “Free Palestine” signs blocked access to O’Hare International Airport, forcing some passengers to walk along the interstate with their luggage to make their flights.

And in New York, pro-Hamas demonstrators shut down traffic over the Brooklyn Bridge for several hours until police managed to disperse the crowd.

As a result of these reckless demonstrations—which also affected cities such as Philadelphia and Oakland—hardworking Americans struggled to get to their jobs and commerce in many parts of the country came to a standstill.

And that is exactly what was intended. A15 Action—the far-left group that coordinated the demonstrations—claimed on its website that it wanted activists to “blockade major choke points in the economy” to pressure the U.S. government to withhold aid from Israel as the Jewish state fights for its survival against Iran and its terror proxies, including Hamas.

“There is a need to shift from symbolic actions to those that cause pain to the economy,” A15 Action wrote. “Together we will coordinate to disrupt and blockade economic logistical hubs and the flow of capital.”

To be clear: Blocking major public roads to “cause pain to the economy” is not an act of free speech, but an act of extortion against the American people that threatens the safety of both demonstrators and stranded motorists.

But far too often, individuals who stage traffic blockades face zero consequences—emboldening activists to take increasingly drastic measures.

In February, hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators shut down the Memphis-Arkansas I-40 bridge for two hours, forcing one woman stranded in traffic to be airlifted after experiencing a medical emergency. Yet law enforcement arrested none of the demonstrators, even as police declared the blockade “unlawful.” Following last week’s demonstrations, San Francisco has already released the activists who shut down the Golden Gate Bridge after the city’s district attorney claimed that more evidence is needed to press charges.

These lawless actions are inexcusable. And if city governments refuse to stop dangerous traffic blockades, Congress must step up to ensure that there are consequences for this reckless behavior.

That’s why, in the U.S. Senate, I joined Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in introducing the Safe and Open Streets Act, which would make it a federal crime to purposely obstruct, delay, or affect commerce by blocking a public road or highway—hitting lawbreakers with hefty fines and up to five years in prison.

In America, no one has the right to shut down cities and keep innocent people stranded in dangerous traffic blockades. The Safe and Open Streets Act would ensure that this lawlessness comes to an end.