Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block traffic into Chicago airport, causing headaches for travelers

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CHICAGO (AP) — Pro-Palestinian demonstrators blocked a freeway leading to three Chicago O’Hare International Airport terminals Monday morning, temporarily stopping vehicle traffic into one of the nation’s busiest airports and causing headaches for travelers.

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 organizers. Traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area was also snarled for four hours Monday morning as pro-Palestinian demonstrators shut down all traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge and stalled a 17-mile (27-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 880 in Oakland.

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

Some travelers 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 1 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 toward O’Hare resumed around 9 a.m.

Several protesters were arrested at the Golden Gate Bridge demonstration and traffic resumed shortly after noon, according to the California Highway Patrol. Also by noon, more highway lanes opened up to traffic on Interstate 880 in nearby Oakland after officers removed six protesters who had locked themselves to barrels.

In Chicago, dozens of protesters were arrested, according to Falaneh. Chicago police said 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.

Anti- war protesters have demonstrated in Chicago near daily since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that killed around 1,200 people. Israeli warplanes and ground troops have conducted a scorched-earth campaign on the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli offensive has killed more than 33,700 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

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Associated Press writer Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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