Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
A second night of demonstrations following the Ferguson grand jury decision looks a bit like a nationwide effort to stall traffic.
Demonstrations over the grand jury decision to not indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown continue to rock America. There were more protesters arrested last night in Los Angeles, the second night of major protests, than there were Monday night in Ferguson, Missouri.
In L.A., some of those demonstrators were arrested after shutting down traffic in both directions on the 101 Freeway. Another group of protesters flummoxed traffic downtown by laying down in the intersection of Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Grand Avenue.
They were not alone. Protesters took to I-95 in Providence. Highway 55 in Minneapolis. I-75 in Cincinnati. I-980 in Oakland. I-44 in St. Louis. I-35 in Dallas. And the Lincoln Tunnel and the West Side Highway in New York.
Across the nation, many of the protests that continue to simmer have moved from parks, plazas and civic centers to freeways and highways. The ongoing protests reflect national outrage following a grand jury decision that has vexed critics, to say nothing of the many black lives cut short in police shootings. Yet the move to the highways is something else: an evolution in the language and strategy of civil disobedience.
Last night on the Mass Pike, for instance, Boston police battled with protesters attempting to gain access to the highway. Law-enforcement officers blocked multiple entrances to I-93 and the Mass Pike as demonstrators tried to take the highways.
Oakland may have been the first city to see protesters take to the highway. For a second night in the Bay Area city, protesters stopped traffic on I-580. As many as 2,000 demonstrators blocked traffic in both directions. For a brief time, they also took I-980.
And in Cleveland, protesters jammed the Memorial Shoreway. Demonstrators gathered here to protest the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a black child who was killed by police while playing with a replica gun at a park.
The protests were largely peaceful, despite hundreds of arrests nationwide. In one disturbing incident, though, a driver in Minneapolis plowed through a crowd of marchers on a downtown street, pinning one woman underneath the car. The Star-Tribune captured the assault on video.
It was late in September that protesters first took a major freeway in Hong Kong's financial district. The protests gained critical mass more than a month after Brown's death in Ferguson. When Hong Kong demonstrators clashed with police, they appeared to adopt the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" posture made familiar after weeks of protests in Ferguson.
It turns out that the Hong Kong protesters may not have been aware of the Ferguson protests. It's hard to say whether protesters in Ferguson, Oakland, St. Louis, Dallas, and so many other cities are looking to the Hong Kong occupation for inspiration. Multiple highway protests may just reflect the primacy of highways in so many U.S. cities—and a desire among the protesters to be heard, immediately.