On October 11, the very people who keep America moving will use the day to stop traffic in the nation’s capital.
If one group of laborers in America is too often overlooked, it may be truckers.
Many Americans think they rarely come in contact with truckers. But when is the last time you bought a soda? How about a gallon of milk? A tank of gas?
We have truckers to thank for those conveniences.
Given that truckers are an essential part of the American infrastructure, yet are so easily forgotten, it is no surprise that they would be bringing their own grievances to the attention of Washington, D.C.
A large group of truckers is planning a protest in Washington on October 11 for three days, to challenge Obama’s “corruption against the Constitution.”
The “Truckers Ride For The Constitution” Facebook page says, “The American people are sick and tired of the corruption that is destroying America! We therefore declare a GENERAL STRIKE on the weekend of October 11-13, 2013! Truck drivers will not haul freight! Americans can strike in solidarity with truck drivers!”
It all sounds exciting and important, but what specifically do the organizers mean by “corruption that is destroying America?”
Predictably, the vagueness of the event and its purpose has prompted knee-jerk assumptions and spin from the right and the left.
In an effort to cut through the right/left paradigm, I spoke with Zeeda Andrews, one of the protests’ chief organizers, to learn what “Ride For The Constitution” is really about.
Andrews helped put together the initial Facebook page to support truckers and draw attention to “regulations that are unconstitutional.”
“Truckers are concerned about their livelihood,” said Andrews. She mentioned multiple ways in which truck drivers feel their rights are being infringed upon.
According to Andrews, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is currently pushing a law that would require every trucker to have a tracking device in his or her vehicle. This device keeps track of mandatory breaks, idling time, and driving speed. “This is a privacy issue,” insisted Andrews. “[The Feds] can see and hear everything. They can even control how fast the truckers are driving at all times. It’s the trucking nanny.”
The DOT is also trying to enforce idling laws, which prohibit truckers from idling unless they keep a pet inside their vehicle. These laws can be enforced using the tracking devices mentioned above. Andrews points out that idling restrictions become a health hazard when it’s 10 below zero out, and truckers need to warm up their cabs before hitting the road.
Obamacare is also having a drastic negative impact on truckers, according to Andrews. Many trucking companies are reducing workers’ hours to under 30 per week because they cannot afford to provide full health coverage (which, under Obamacare, will be mandatory for all full time employees). In the case of the trucking industry, this part of the new healthcare law hurts both the worker and the employer.
These are just a few of the ways that truckers feel there is “corruption against the Constitution.”
Shortly after Andrews and her colleagues launched the initial Facebook page, it went viral, receiving over 86,000 “likes.”
Although the initial protest concept was specific to truckers’ needs, Andrews says these are issues that the entire country can gather around and support. In Andrew’s view, Americans have grown exceedingly tired of their rights being trampled on by politicians.
“If anyone can help save the country, it’s truckers,” said Andrews. “Just like the truckers, Americans are sick and tired of what’s going on in this country. It’s time to get up there and make a change. If something happens, it’s because we all let it. We have a right to address these issues and bring them to Washington, D.C. in a peaceful manner.”
It is easy to imagine why the page when viral so rapidly.
Just as the movement was picking up steam online, Facebook unexpectedly shut the page down. Under Facebook’s “Community Standards” policies, “political enemies” were able to target the truckers’ page.
The original description of the event, which mentioned Muslims, did not sit well with some people. It said:
“It does not matter if a million or 50 roll through DC in this effort. Congress will listen to We the People. Which is remove Obama from office for crimes of treason and misdemeanors. We want Congressional hearing on Benghazi and Seal Team 6. Louis Learner [sic] put in jail. No amnesty, remove all Muslims in our government that do not uphold the Constitution. [Emphasis added] Remove Eric Holder from office for crimes against the people and the Constitution. Last but not least is Fuel prices.”
Political opponents of the truckers fixated on the sentence about Muslims and used it as a basis to shut down the Facebook page. Even though the truckers were genuinely angry about violations to the Constitution, and the event has nothing to do with race, opponents used the Muslim sentence to “spin” the protest into a “racist” rally.
Facebook’s Community Standards is a self-policing system; when people see something on the site they object to, they can “report” it. If enough people do this, Facebook responds by shutting down the page. According to Andrews, substantial numbers of opponents to the truckers reported the page, ensuring that it was shut down.
As a result of being banned from Facebook, the truckers started their own website called RideForTheConstitution.org to promote the event. A new Facebook page was created shortly thereafter, where Andrews and her partners are currently recouping the followers they lost when the first page was shut down.
For the most part, people have received the protest positively, Andrews said.
“Most Americans are 100 percent on board with this,” she said. “It takes everyone coming together to say: ‘No I do not consent to this lawlessness. I don’t support your taking away my rights.'”
The protest encourages people from “coast to coast” to show their support by taking the day off from work, or simply choosing to not spend money that weekend.
While the truckers certainly have articulated reasonable grievances, what is the likely outcome of a march? We have seen several marches of this kind over recent years by different groups in Washington, D.C. Even if the march reached the million-man mark, or even if it slowed down traffic in D.C. for a day, is the march likely to bring any real reform without its coinciding with a well-organized lobbying effort to influence legislation?
Will anything really get done?
*Special thanks to Peter Santilli for information and insight regarding this event.