32 protesters arrested for blocking traffic on I-76 in Center City Philadelphia

The group, with Jewish Voice for Peace, could be seen hanging banners that read "Let Gaza Live" and "Ceasefire Now."

Friday, December 15, 2023
Gaza ceasefire protest blocks traffic on I-76 in Center City Philadelphia
32 protesters were taken into custody after blocking traffic during a ceasefire protest on I-76 in Center City Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- More than 30 protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza were arrested for blocking traffic on the westbound lanes of the Schuylkill Expressway in Center City Philadelphia.

Police say it happened around 3:30 p.m. Thursday as the group of about 150 people with Jewish Voice for Peace started gathering on the Spring Garden Street Bridge, hanging banners that read "Let Gaza Live" and "Ceasefire Now."

Chopper 6 video of protest on Schuylkill Expressway in Center City

At some point, police say protesters, who were in cars below the overpass, got out of their vehicles and shut down the westbound lanes of I-76 for about 25 minutes.

Chopper 6 was overhead as Philadelphia police and Pennsylvania State Police swarmed the group.

According to Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford, 32 people were arrested and will be cited for being on the highway. State police will determine any specific charges.

Jay Bergen was one of those take into custody.

"Right now, our politicians think that they can get away with continuing to fund and support genocide,"said Bergen. "We, as people of faith and people of conscience, need to be speaking out and saying business as usual cannot continue."

The Schuylkill Expressway and the Spring Garden Street Bridge have since reopened to traffic.

"I've been on 76 myself. I understand it could be a challenge. I also think our life needs to be disrupted, said Rabbi Linda Holtzman. "I hope the people on 76 can understand that demanding a ceasefire, that calling attention in every way that we can to the horrific situation in Gaza makes being stuck in traffic not that important."

Later in the evening, the group of protesters briefly walked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps before dispersing.

Protesters block traffic on I-76 WB in Center City | LIVE

Organizers say these demonstrations will continue with no end in sight.

"As a Jewish student, I stand with my broader community and we will do whatever it takes, as long as it takes," said Hilah Cohen, an Israeli-American student.

The protest coincided with the last night of Hannukah. Philadelphia was one of the eight cities in which protests were staged Thursday.

"Jewish students, like me, are coming together with our broader communities to call out for an immediate ceasefire and shed light on ceasefire during Hanukkah," Cohen added.

Earlier this year, a similar protest was held at 30th Street Station. In that demonstration, more than 60 protesters were arrested for blocking entrances to trains.