NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Protesters chained themselves together across the George Washington Bridge, disrupting traffic during the height of the morning rush hour Wednesday – and their actions have raised concerns about security.
As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, the protesters managed to shut down a major artery into Manhattan as they protested immigrant rights.
The inbound upper level was closed for only 15 minutes, but the damage was done.
Delays into New York at one point reached 90 minutes.
Protesters with an immigrant rights group held up a banner reading “Resist, Organized, Rise Up!” and blocked traffic heading into New York City around 8 a.m.
Video on social media showed angry drivers screaming at protesters to get off the bridge and truckers honking their horns, as police took demonstrators into custody.
“Get the f**k out of the road, are you f***ing kidding me?” one man is seen yelling at the protesters.
“Get the hell out of here, you want to go protest, protest on your own time,” another man said.
The group, We Are Visible, chose the bridge to protest voting rights for documented and undocumented immigrants because of the significance of its namesake, CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported.
“Just basically to tell the system we’re not going to be in the shadows anymore,” protester Mahoma Lopez said. “We are here and we contribute to the community, we pay taxes, and we consume… The majority of immigrant people, we don’t have the right to vote.”
Lopez said the social disruption was a small price to pay, but thousands of tax-paying drivers disagreed as they waited for the act of civil disobedience to come to a close.
One by one police arrested 10 people — seven men and three women — on reckless endangerment and criminal trespassing charges. Most were from New York, but one was from New Jersey and another from California.
They were handcuffed and lying in the middle of the bridge as drivers waited up to an hour and a half to get through.
Wednesday’s demonstration highlighted a weak spot on the country’s busiest road, which spans the Hudson River and connects New Jersey and New York City.
“They jumped over and basically blocked the traffic,” Lopez said.
Experts said the demonstration may have exposed a major security flaw. Moore reported seeing bike lanes, walking paths and neighborhood side streets just feet away from oncoming highway traffic with no barriers preventing people from walking straight onto the bridge.
“Today, it’s a simple demonstration that caused heavy duty traffic for a couple of hours,” former FBI agent and security expert Manny Gomez told CBS2’s Carrasco. “Tomorrow, it could be a potential terrorist act.”
Gomez told CBS2 the incident should be a wakeup call for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and changes need to be considered.
“More police presence, marked vehicles, better cameras, better camera monitoring and ultimately overall more vigilance,” he said.
The security issues called into question if access should still be allowed on the path along the bridge.
“Nobody should be able to walk across that bridge, I think. It’s just a whole bunch of problems,” said George Washington Bridge driver Jim Bateman. “Once they get on the bridge, you can’t stop anybody from doing what they want.”
But Gomez said closing the bridge to pedestrians might not be realistic.
“I would think it would take a major event for them to eventually cut that down, because a lot of people do enjoy it and use it on a daily basis,” Gomez said.
The Port Authority would not go on camera to address the security concerns, and only told CBS2 safety is its top priority.