News & Politics

Trucker Convoy Members Sue DC for Not Letting Them Into City

They claim that police violated their First Amendment rights by blocking exits.

Trucks on the Beltway. Photograph by Flickr user Stephen Melkisethian.

Sixteen people who took part in the trucker convoy protests around Washington earlier this year filed suit against the DC government Monday, claiming that police violated their First Amendment rights by blocking highway exits.

The blockades were highly effective, the plaintiffs argue: They say people associated with the People’s Convoy were turned away from entering the District four separate times. This policy amounts to a violation of their rights, the convoyers say: it’s “unconstitutionally vague on its face because it allows the District unfettered discretion to refuse to grant Plaintiffs access to the District, thereby depriving Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights to travel and free speech.”

It will be interesting to see how this argument fares in court: Governments routinely erect barriers in the name of public safety. The plaintiffs do not state in their suit whether they were among the handful of actual 18-wheelers that took part in the prolonged and ultimately ineffective protest, but truck routes are restricted in much of downtown DC.

The protests were inspired by similar actions in Canada that caused great disruptions. The convoy’s official stated goals included inconveniencing Washingtonians because of vague grievances. Furthermore, many convoy protesters, including a key organizer, expressed sympathy for defendants in January 6 cases who were also confronted with police-constructed barriers. And convoy participants made it into the District anyway.

The plaintiffs also claim that the blockades caused two deaths, a reference to a March incident unrelated to the convoy when the driver of a speeding car lost control of a BMW, striking a Toyota and a dump truck at an exit before bursting into flames and killing two people. The DC Police Union cited that crash in a March letter that complained about blockade assignments.

You can read the suit here:

Trucker Convoy Lawsuit by Washingtonian Magazine on Scribd

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.