Brac­ing for bor­der wall protests

Fenc­ing is in­stalled as of­fi­cials con­sider des­ig­nat­ing an area for demon­stra­tors.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Greg Mo­ran greg.mo­ran @sdunion­tri­bune.com Mo­ran writes for the San Diego Union-Tri­bune.

The Otay Mesa site where mod­els of com­pet­ing pro­pos­als to build Pres­i­dent Trump’s bor­der wall are to be built is now nearly sur­rounded by a chain-link fence, though there is still no of­fi­cial time­line for when com­pa­nies that won a bid­ding con­test will be­gin work.

Over the last week, the roughly 8-foot-high fence has been con­structed around the site. A green screen on the fence blocks views of the work on the pro­to­type walls and is plas­tered with signs from Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion des­ig­nat­ing it a re­stricted area and warn­ing off tres­passers.

The fenc­ing is the most vis­i­ble sign of prepa­ra­tion for the wall work — the first step in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­tro­ver­sial quest to con­struct hun­dreds of miles of new wall along the south­west bor­der.

Al­though there is no start date, Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cials have met with the San Diego County Sher­iff’s De­part­ment to dis­cuss the con­struc­tion, which could draw protests.

The Sher­iff’s De­part­ment is con­sid­er­ing set­ting up a des­ig­nated area for demon­stra­tors, spokesman Ryan Keim said.

“In our ef­fort to bet­ter pro­tect the peo­ple of this county, the de­part­ment is cur­rently eval­u­at­ing the need and pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion of a ‘free speech’ area where cit­i­zens can peace­fully ex­press their view­points,” Keim said in a state­ment.

“The Sher­iff’s De­part­ment rec­og­nizes the high level of emo­tions associated with this project and we are com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing the high­est lev­els of law en­force­ment ser­vices in our ef­fort to pro­tect our com­mu­ni­ties,” the state­ment said.

The pos­si­bil­ity of protests has shad­owed the project since the gov­ern­ment first so­licited bids for pro­to­types in March.

The 76-page bid re­quest in­cludes a sec­tion ad­vis­ing con­trac­tors that they are re­spon­si­ble for se­cu­rity for their equip­ment and work­ers, and re­quir­ing a se­cu­rity plan — in­clud­ing de­tailed pro­vi­sions for “fall-back po­si­tions, evac­u­a­tion rou­tines and meth­ods, muster area … in the event of a hos­tile at­tack.”

In an­other sec­tion, bid­ders were asked about any prior work on con­tro­ver­sial jobs. “De­scribe your ex­pe­ri­ence ex­e­cut­ing high-pro­file, high-vis­i­bil­ity and po­lit­i­cally con­tentious de­sign build projects,” the pro­posal said.

On Wed­nes­day, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported that Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion had sent a memo Sept. 6 to state and lo­cal law en­force­ment warn­ing of protests and po­ten­tial vi­o­lence. The memo ap­par­ently warned that protests could be sim­i­lar to those against the Dakota Ac­cess pipe­line in North Dakota, which at its peak in 2016 and 2017 at­tracted thou­sands of pro­test­ers and led to hun­dreds of ar­rests.

Car­los Diaz, a spokesman for the agency, said it does not com­ment on leaked memos. The Sher­iff’s De­part­ment did not di­rectly ad­dress the memo.

Courts have ruled the gov­ern­ment can reg­u­late the time, place and man­ner of speech with­out vi­o­lat­ing the 1st Amend­ment, so long as the gov­ern­ment does not re­strict the con­tent of the speech, said David Loy, le­gal di­rec­tor for the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of San Diego and Im­pe­rial Coun­ties. That power al­lows the gov­ern­ment to es­tab­lish “free speech zones.”

Each case is dif­fer­ent and has to be eval­u­ated on the specifics of where the area is set up, he said.

“The bot­tom line is the gov­ern­ment has to err on pro­tect­ing free­dom of speech,” Loy said. “The free speech zone has to be mean­ing­ful. It can’t be a postage stamp space where three peo­ple can stand.”

Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion has awarded con­tracts to half a dozen com­pa­nies to con­struct two kinds of wall mod­els — one made of solid con­crete, an­other of “other ma­te­ri­als.” The mod­els are to be 18 to 30 feet high and 30 feet long.

When the con­tracts were an­nounced Aug. 31 and Sept. 7, Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion said work would be­gin in 30 days. But since then the agency has said re­peat­edly that there is no time­line for the project’s start.

The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported that the Sept. 6 memo pegged con­struc­tion to be­gin Sept. 26.

The walls will be con­structed be­neath a power line tower, a few dozen yards north of the bor­der with Mex­ico.

Ale­jan­dro Ta­mayo San Diego Union-Tri­bune

CHAIN-LINK fenc­ing was in­stalled at the Otay Mesa site where com­pet­ing com­pa­nies will build mod­els of their pro­pos­als for Pres­i­dent Trump’s bor­der wall. The San Diego County Sher­iff ’s De­part­ment said it is eval­u­at­ing the need for a “free speech” area for pro­test­ers.

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