Reading through the daily update from the front lines at the Port of Oakland, it seems that new tactics are going to be used to suppress the protesting independent truckers that have closed the terminals.
From local news coverage reports saying protesters have until Monday, July 25, to “move along” and signs of barricades and emplacements being brought in to corral the protestors, I am now suspicious that we might see a law enforcement intervention soon.
Do Port of Oakland admins need their “safe space”?
To be honest, I feel sad for the Port of Oakland and other members of the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA). They’re being attacked from all sides. They are facing two of the most important unions in logistics – the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Collective Bargaining Coalition/Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way/SMART Mechanical Coalition.
Now, AB5 has angered the independent truckers that carry the containers in and out of the port, to railheads, warehouses and distribution centers. The PMA is caught between a rock and a hard place with the unstoppable force headed right for them.
But are the protesting drivers truly the “immovable object” that they claim? Protest leaders have vowed not to stop protesting until exceptions are made for independent truckers. However, as noted above, reports from local media and FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes seem to indicate that plans are in the works to “corral” the drivers into “safe free speech spaces.”
Are free speech zones even legal under the First Amendment?
Time to go back to college and visit those darling little “free speech zones” infamous around campuses like Berkeley University. According to an article posted by Middle Tennessee State University, written by Judge Emilie S. Kraft, a free speech zone “refers to areas on college campuses and at certain public events, such as political conventions, specifically designated for protesters and demonstrators to exercise their right to freedom of speech.”
California has a history of popping these up whenever they need to separate the herd.
At the 2000 Democratic National Convention, which was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, police set up a “secured zone,” which could be entered only by those with an actual convention ticket, and a “demonstration zone,” which was the only place protesters were allowed to demonstrate.
Several groups of protesters then filed for a preliminary injunction in the Ninth Circuit Court, which it granted. The court said “that the secured zone comprised sidewalks and streets, which constituted a traditional public forum.” It also commented that the planned rules were not narrowly tailored and did not provide an alternative means of speech, because it kept the demonstrators too far away from their intended audience – the convention attendees. The court finished by saying “banning speech is an unacceptable means of planning for potential misconduct.”
The ACLU could be another pain in the backside for the Port of Oakland
No one loves a lawsuit more than the American Civil Liberties Union, or the ACLU. Many see the ACLU in a negative light, but this might be one time that they are welcome at the front lines. Who better to make sure protesting truck drivers are legally represented than one of the original civil rights groups.
If truckers are herded like chattel into “free speech zones,” expect the headache felt by the Port of Oakland administration to grow even worse. You can bet your bottom dollar the ACLU and friends are monitoring this situation closely and are ready to jump in with lawsuits and media blitzes.
Monday is going to be really interesting in terms of what happens and how it is handled by authorities.