Traffic on the Western Express Highway from Andheri to Kherwadi came to a near standstill for nearly three hours after around 700 Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activists carried out a rasta-roko on Thursday afternoon.
They were protesting against overloading of trucks and cabs and poor management of traffic rules.
The protesters allegedly turned violent and pelted stones on vehicles. The police arrested 17 MNS workers for vandalism and blocking the highway, including the organiser of the protest Haji Arafat Shaikh, 34, president of the transport wing.
The Kherwadi police said the protesters blocked the highway around 1.30pm.
“The protesters parked their vehicles at several spots to disrupt traffic. They punctured tyres of vehicles and broke their windshields,” said Avaduth Chavan, senior inspector. Kherwadi police station.
The police had to resort to lathi charge to clear the busy highway.
“The road could be cleared around 4.30pm. Traffic snarls were reported till 8pm in the Vakola and Kherwadi traffic division,” said P Temkar, senior inspector, Vakola traffic police.
The vehicles at the Gold Spot junction moving towards south Mumbai were diverted to SCD Barfiwala road and SV road, said V Dhatrak, senior inspector at Airport traffic control.
Shaikh claimed the trouble started after the drivers of the trucks carrying the MNS supporters were assaulted. “We were protesting peacefully. The police disrupted the traffic, not us,” he said.