I understand our First Amendment right of free speech and the right of assembly. I also understand it is not a blank check and some speech is restricted such as hate speech or the example of shouting “fire” in a theater when there is no fire, and the speech would cause harm to others.
The right to assemble in protest is not a blank check either. Protestors may assemble on public property, but their assembly cannot restrict access and use to the public property such as buildings they may assemble near or in front of.
Ok, where am I going with all of this discussion? I am thinking of the trucker protests in Ottawa, Canada and now these protests have expanded to block access to bridges that allow travel from Canada to the United States.
My first and probably biggest objection to the nature of the Canadian trucker protest is the use of their trucks to effectively shut down and blockade parts of a city. I do not think the free speech rights extend to trucks. I know this is Canada and different rules prevail of course, but this is a point I am going to raise. I also wonder about the limitations and problems posed to emergency vehicles like fire trucks, ambulances, and other public safety vehicles. It looks like Ottawa has become a very difficult place for emergency vehicles to navigate – can they? And then there is the noise issue – I understand the truckers take to using their horns and other nose makers to disturb the peace. And what about all that exhaust from the trucks? These trucks are little homes away from home for the truckers and folks are carting in diesel fuel so the trucks can continue to run and keep the truckers warm. Again, I will assert that the rights we understand follow with the right to free speech and assembly do not extend to trucks, they are human rights, not vehicular rights.
To my thinking, this big truck convoy that traveled across Canada was a public safety hazard and problem for travelers before it ever got to Ottawa. I wonder why the Canadian government did not stop this convoy on the highway and force it to disperse. If those involved still wanted to get to Ottawa and protest the Covid regulations, fine, but their trucks should not be allowed as part of the protest. The free speech and assembly rights do not extend to trucks and the use of trucks to take away the rights of others. I view this trucker protest as more a form of extortion than a lawful protest.
This all gets to the underlying problem, the objection of some to the public health and safety regulations during this pandemic. Again, my individual rights do not supersede the rights of others when my exercise of rights would bring harm and danger to others. You might call this a “for the common good” doctrine (I made that up so you will have to allow me some latitude here, but it makes sense to me.). I just do not see where the exercise of my individual rights are more important than the rights of a community and society when the exercise of my rights will bring harm to others. Call this my “moral compass doctrine.” I am getting good at naming personal doctrines, huh.
Ok, so I think I have established that I do not have any sympathy or agreement with the Canadian truckers and their protest. I will go so far as to say it seems very selfish to me as have most of the Covid safety protests. We are not communities and nations of independent contractors – we live together and how we conduct ourselves in a society is important to the overall health and benefit of our society.
And one final question, just where are all of these Canadian truckers going to the bathroom?
Take care and be safe,