Truckers who sought to travel to Washington, D.C., to protest COVID-19 mask mandates and vaccine requirements are suing the city, claiming police violated their First Amendment rights by blocking their entry into the city.
A trucker group called the People's Conoy set out in March to drive to the nation's capital, clogging D.C. streets to protest government COVID-19 mandates they believe were unconstitutional. However, district police set up blockades to divert the convoy from downtown D.C. Sixteen people who took part in the trucker protest are suing the city for stopping them from gathering downtown.
The lawsuit argues that the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department's (MPD) blockades were effective and violated their First Amendment right to free speech and assembly.
According to the lawsuit, MPD blocked exits on I-395 and I-695 on multiple days in March due to the convoy. At the time, police said they closed the exits "to keep traffic moving safely," according to The Washington Post.
"The blockades were not the result of construction, auto accidents, or even scheduled road closures," the lawsuit states. "MPD formed the blockades 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."
The lawsuit also alleges that MPD's blockades led to the deaths of two people who crashed a car into a blockade. Plaintiffs argue the deaths "were entirely avoidable and tragically, foreseeable" due to MPD's actions.
The plaintiffs are suing for violation of due process, not granting equal protection and violation of free speech.
The People's Convoy was inspired by a Canadian trucker movement, dubbed the Freedom Convoy, also protesting COVID-19 mandates. The Freedom Convoy began in January 2022 and blocked the country's most vital trade route to the U.S.
"This is about our rights, as well as the freedom of future generations," organizers of the People's Convoy wrote on Facebook. "It's not about political parties, but more so about a government that has forgotten its place and has no regard for our founding fathers' instructions."
According to Washingtonian, the People's Convoy is set to return to the D.C. area after an unsuccessful first attempt at protesting.
Convoy members have "learned some stuff since last time," said David Riddell, a convoy leader who gave a speech in Olympia, Washington. He urged "tens of thousands of all of you to get in your vehicles and join with us and come to Washington, D.C."
This article originally appeared on Newsweek