The Port of Oakland reopened on July 25 after a week of protests, as remaining protesters were moved to “free speech zones” away from the terminal gates.  -  Photo: Port of Oakland (file photo)

The Port of Oakland reopened on July 25 after a week of protests, as remaining protesters were moved to “free speech zones” away from the terminal gates.

Photo: Port of Oakland (file photo)

After an independent trucker protest brought the Port of Oakland to a crawl the week of July 18, the port responded with a lawsuit against protesters seeking to keep it from happening again.

The truckers were protesting AB5, a California law that makes it virtually impossible for trucking’s traditional owner-operator model to operate in the state. The state had been prohibited from enforcing the 2019 law, also known as the gig worker labor law, against trucking while a legal challenge claiming it was pre-empted by federal law made its way through the courts. When the U.S. Supreme Court announced June 30 it would not hear the case, meaning it could now be enforced, it triggered protests in both the Los Angeles area ports and in Oakland.

The Superior Court of California in Alameda County issued a temporary restraining order on Aug. 1 prohibiting the defendants and those working with them to “not block or impede ingress into, egress from, or the passage of vehicles or persons through, Port of Oakland facilities.”

The suit, filed July 25, targets Enrique Alvarez, Prudencio Umana, Navdeep Ngill, Filmon Teklehaimanot, and as many as 2,000 protesters for which it does not yet have identities.

The lawsuit claims that the protesters’ activities “have gone beyond peaceful protest, protected speech, and lawful petition for a redress of grievances,” citing numerous traffic and other laws that defendants allegedly violating, including:

  • Walking other than on left edge of roadway.
  • Crossing other than in crosswalk.
  • Failure to yield to vehicles.
  • Unnecessarily stopping or delaying traffic in a marked or unmarked crosswalk.
  • Trespassing.
  • Criminal nuisance.
  • Unlawful assembly.
  • Failure to disperse.
  • Illegally crossing street.
  • Congregating in streets, refusal to disperse.
  • Illegal street meeting.
  • Illegal parade.

“While the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech and the right to petition for a redress of grievances, the United States Supreme Court has unequivocally and repeatedly held that the First Amendment does not permit protesters to prevent persons and vehicles from traversing public rights of way in the hopes of securing a captive audience or drawing media attention to their cause,” said the Port in its lawsuit. “Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has held that the government has an affirmative responsibility to prevent protesters from blocking streets.”

An August 29 hearing is scheduled on a preliminary injunction.

AB5 could affect some 70,000 independent contractors in the state, according to the California Trucking Association.

Learn more about AB5:

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