California Highway Patrol officers clear protesters from the 101 freeway in Los Angeles. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

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.

California Highway Patrol officers block a highway entrance in L.A. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

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.

Police scrimmage with protesters trying to take a highway in Boston. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

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.

Police meet protesters on a highway in Oakland on November 24. (Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters)

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.

Protesters on the Shoreway in Cleveland. (Mark Duncan/AP)

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.

Protesters in Hong Kong adopted a "hands up, don't shoot" approach to dealing with police, for some of the reasons as demonstrators in Ferguson. (Wally Santana/AP)
Protesters occupy a highway in Hong Kong's financial district on September 29. (Wally Santana/AP)

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: San Diego's Trolley
    Transportation

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  2. Design

    Why Amsterdam’s Canal Houses Have Endured for 300 Years

    A different kind of wealth distribution in 17th-century Amsterdam paved the way for its quintessential home design.

  3. a photo of a street in Zürich, Switzerland.
    Perspective

    What Does This Street In Zürich Mean?

    If you see how cars, streetcars, bikes, and pedestrians use this Swiss street, you can better understand what’s wrong with so many other urban thoroughfares.

  4. A South Korean woman with a baby in her arms in front of Seoul City Hall in 2005.
    Life

    South Korea Is Trying to Boost its Birth Rate. It's Not Working.

    The country needs to convince more couples to have children. But its biggest city is no paradise for parents.

  5. photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
    Life

    What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

    The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

×