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Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block traffic into Chicago airport

Published:Tuesday | April 16, 2024 | 12:08 AM
Passengers walk to a security checkpoint at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Monday, April 15.
Passengers walk to a security checkpoint at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago on Monday, April 15.

CHICAGO (AP):

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked a freeway leading to three Chicago O’Hare International Airport terminals on Monday morning, temporarily stopping vehicular traffic into one of the nation’s busiest airports and causing headaches for travellers.

Protesters linked arms and blocked lanes of Interstate 190 around 7 a.m., a demonstration they said was part of a global “economic blockade to free Palestine”, according to Rifqa Falaneh, one of the organisers. Traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area was also snarled for hours on Monday morning as pro-Palestinian demonstrators shut down both directions of the Golden Gate Bridge and stalled a 17-mile (27-kilometre) stretch of Interstate 880 in Oakland.

Walked to airport

O’Hare warned travellers on the social platform X to take alternative forms of transportation, with car travel “substantially delayed this morning due to protest activity”.

Some travellers stuck in standstill traffic left their cars and walked the final leg to the airport along the freeway, trailing their luggage behind them.

Among them was Madeline Hannan from suburban Chicago. She was headed to O’Hare for a work trip to Florida when her and her husband’s car ended up stalled for 20 minutes. She got out and “both ran and speed-walked” more than one mile. She said she made it to the gate on time, but barely.

“This was an inconvenience,” she said in a telephone interview from Florida. “But in the grand scheme of things going on overseas, it’s a minor inconvenience.”

While individual travelers may have been affected, operations at the airport appeared near normal, with delays of under 15 minutes, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

Inbound traffic towards O’Hare resumed around 9 a.m.

On the Golden Gate Bridge in California, a small number of demonstrators stood by, as did police. Some protesters held a black banner that read ‘Stop the world for Gaza’. The iconic bridge was closed off to all auto traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians.

In Chicago, dozens of protesters were arrested, according to Falaneh. Chicago police said on Monday that “multiple people” were taken into custody after a protest where people obstructed traffic, but did not have a detailed count.

Protesters say they chose the location, in part, because O’Hare is one of the largest airports. Among other things, they’ve called for an immediate ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas.