Golden Gate Bridge protest suspects to be released from jail by San Francisco's D.A.

Protesters at San Francisco County Jail are calling for the release of those arrested on the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday and now the district attorney says that will happen. 

SF D.A. Brooke Jenkins is up against a clock and says, because she can't charge them yet, they will be released for now.

For hours, protesters blocked access across the Golden Gate Bridge. California Highway Patrol eventually arrested more than two dozen protesters on suspicion of blocking access across the bridge, failure to follow lawful orders, and conspiracy – a possible felony, for working to coordinate the protests across the Bay Area and nationwide.

Now San Francisco's top prosecutor says her office has to release the suspects, at least for now, since she faces a hard deadline to charge them or release them. 

"Unfortunately, in order for us to make a decision on what would ordinarily be the 48-hour clock, it should not be sufficient legally," said Jenkins. "So it puts us having to make the decision today. I know that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to folks. But unfortunately, because they were arrested before 4 p.m. yesterday, it moves up the clock a bit."

Jenkins says the CHP still has to turn over evidence pertaining to the case, including video of the suspects on the bridge, and her office needs to then evaluate that evidence for each of the more than two dozen suspects and decide if her office will prosecute the protesters. 

"We do expect at the very least this to take several days," Jenkins said. "Because, again, it's not just the gathering of the evidence, and the presentation to this office. But, it's also my office's ability to review the evidence as it relates to 26 different suspects."

David Levine teaches at the University of California School of Law in San Francisco. He says the law is clear that people can protest, but that when they block roads and bridges they are breaking the law. "By choosing to protest on a bridge they've obstructed other people," said Levine. "They can't go about their business as they choose they may or may not be sympathetic to the cause. But, you can't impose the cause on other people."


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Outside of San Francisco's County Jail, protesters called for the release of those arrested for blocking the bridge. "Protesters there were taken in, arrested and actually charged with an egregious, felony trumped-up charge and as a result were held overnight," said Bridget, who did not want to disclose her last name. "So we are here today demanding their release. It's been over 24 hours that they've been in the jail."

The district attorney also discussed the Bay Bridge protesters from November, many of whom received diversion as part of their plea deal. She says that was a deal worked out between the defendants and the judge, and if these latest cases from the Golden Gate Bridge are prosecuted as misdemeanors, this new batch of defendants could work out a similar deal with another judge.

The D.A. says a decision on whether and how to prosecute these latest protesters is at least several days away.