The District of Columbia contends that a group of truckers alleging that the District of Columbia violated its free speech rights has failed to prove its case and has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
The 16-member group, which called itself “13 trucks for 13 fallen soldiers,” traveled to Washington from Hagerstown, Maryland, several times during the same week in March that the People’s Convoy demonstrated in their trucks around the capital.
Its intent, as the group stated in the lawsuit filed in May with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was to “lawfully exercise … First Amendment rights in protest of the current administration’s continued state of emergency declaration and COVID-19 related policies.” The group also wanted to honor 13 service members who lost their lives in Afghanistan in August 2021.
Four separate attempts to enter the district that week were thwarted, however, by blockades set up by D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) at various entry points along several highways around the city, the group alleged.
The blockades “were not the result of construction, auto accidents or even scheduled road closures,” according to the truckers, but were formed “for the sole purpose of preventing American citizens from entering our nation’s capital to exercise their constitutionally protected right to free speech. Of course, such action under color of state law violates Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights.”
In its motion to dismiss the case, filed on Friday, the city argued the group lacked standing because it failed to make the case that the district caused its alleged injury.
“The lynchpin of Plaintiffs’ theory is the claim that MPD blocked any and all efforts by Plaintiffs to enter the District,” the city said in its response. “But the allegations in the complaint plainly do not support that assertion. While Plaintiffs allege that MPD blocked a small number of exits on certain highways, they ignore the incontrovertible fact that there are dozens of roads leading into the district that were not allegedly blocked by MPD.”
In addition, to the extent that the truckers suffered any injury associated with their alleged inability to protest in the district, “MPD’s closure of a small number of highway exits did not, and could not have, caused Plaintiffs’ injury, and for the same reason, compensatory or nominal damages would not redress their injury,” the city pointed out. “Even assuming that Plaintiffs have standing to assert claims for past injuries, Plaintiffs lack standing to pursue prospective relief because they do not allege a real, immediate threat of future injury.”
The truckers also alleged the district’s actions violated their rights to due process, equal protection and the right to interstate travel.
In each of those cases, however, the city argues that the claims should be dismissed because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to hear them and because the truckers failed to state a claim for relief.
“Even assuming that Plaintiffs’ rights were violated, Plaintiffs fail to allege that the violations were caused by an official policy,” according to the city’s motion. While the truckers repeatedly referred to MPD’s “blockade policy,” it appeared to be set up specifically for the People’s Convoy demonstrations, it noted.
“Plaintiffs fail to identify any actual written policy pursuant to which MPD was acting, nor do they identify any prior examples of the blockade policy being implemented. Because the complaint lacks any viable theory of municipal liability, Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed for that reason as well.”
The court has yet to make a final ruling in the case.
This article originally appeared on Freight Waves