On Monday, July 25, even as the Port of Oakland was getting back to steady business after a week of being hampered by activities of independent truckers protesting in hopes of persuading state officials to modify California's AB 5 contractor law, port officials filed suit against the protestors. The suit asks California Superior Court to render judgment to enjoin protest participants from engaging in various alleged "illegal activities."
The suit was filed by the city of Oakland and the port officials alleging "a carefully planned and orchestrated campaign intended to block traffic, create life safety hazards for persons intending to work and/or do business" at the port and "prevent vital interstate and international commerce from being conducted."
Those "Illegal activities' alleged by the suit include "walking other than on left edge of roadway," failure to yield, "stopping or delaying traffic in a marked or unmarked crosswalk," trespassing, criminal nuisance, obstructing an officer, and more. Such allegations are supported in the suit's text as filed with an account from a private investigator who said he monitored protestors on a single day -- the final Friday of the protests -- helping identify the four named defendants and witnessing the various alleged activities.
Ultimately, the port asks for both a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction preventing "blocking or obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic, ... violating traffic laws or other laws, ... preventing persons with legitimate business on plaintiff's property from conducting that business," and more.
Joe Rajkovacz of the Western States Trucking Association saw the suit's filing fundamentally as "just a charade, and it’s meant to intimidate the predominantly immigrant truckers" who made up the owner-operators demonstrating against California's AB 5 contractor law, he said. The law makes many of those independents' contracting relationships with partner carriers problematic, at best, and fundamentally illegal at worst. As previously reported extensively, a prior injunction against the law's application to trucking in California is expected to be lifted following the U.S. Supreme Court declining to hear a challenge to the law.
[Related: AB 5 contractor law: California small fleets, owner-operators take stock]
As far as the "illegal activities" alleged by the suit, Rajkovacz characterized most as "jaywalking" in all of its various forms, speculating his own witness to day 1 of the events on Monday, July 18, might land him among the 2,000 "Does" the suit includes as defendants. "I kind of view myself as one of the Does," he said. Rajkovacz recalled standing in the roadway with several California Highway Patrol officers while taking pictures of activities there, for instance.