Dereck Biagini pulled out of the dirt construction path and stopped at the intersection, prompted by a red light.
It was 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, and a group of protestors had gathered on the corner.
For months, Dereck, an OOIDA member from Tahoe, NV, watched the protestors show up at the construction site for the new bypass on California State Highway 101 in Willits, Calif.
As the light turned green, several protestors ran across the road while holding a banner. A moment later a man sprinted at Dereck’s red 1989 Peterbilt 379 truck screaming.
“DON’T MOVE, DON’T MOVE,” the man shouted.
The man told Dereck his daughter was underneath Dereck’s trailer, which had just left a load of dirt at the bypass job site. Another truck driver who was behind Dereck’s truck used the CB to tell Dereck a different protestor had attached himself below the trailer’s belly dumper.
The woman and other protestors had used a locking cuff to chain themselves to the truck – forcing Dereck to not drive in order to protect the protestors’ health.
Because the locking mechanism is difficult to cut, police on the scene had to convince protestors to come down off of the truck, Dereck said.
The protests have reportedly been going since last winter, when CalTrans began its effort to build a bypass to allow traffic on Highway 101 to avoid city streets through Willits. The situation has been watched closely by Dereck and his father Rocco Biagini, whose PBB (which stands for Poor Broke Bastards) Trucking company have been hired to haul dirt for the project.
Multiple videos of protests of the project are available on the youtube.com website. The videos show people singing songs about protecting trees and wetlands.
“It’s just an ongoing battle with these people,” Dereck told Land Line. “Even last night, there was a young girl and a middle-aged woman with a walker crossing the road taking 10 minutes to get through the crosswalk.”
Dereck said when the woman with the walker neared his truck, he saw it was actually a young man wearing a wig and a woman’s clothes.
“These people are disguising themselves as old people,” Dereck said. “They think it’s funny to jump out in front of an 80,000-pound truck. I hate to say it, but it’s just a matter of time before someone is going to die.
“They’ll keep jumping in front of trucks and one person won’t see them and then it will be all over.”
The male protestor could easily have been crushed had Dereck’s belly dumper malfunctioned and begun lifting while the protestor was attached.
“These people are crazy,” Dereck said.
Dereck said he tried to reason with the protestors, one of whom told him they had nothing personally against him. Dereck said the lack of work during the Sept. 5 protest cost his family’s company about $300.
“That’s great, but we’re getting paid by the load,” said Dereck, a fourth-generation trucker. “I told him, ‘If you guys have a beef with CalTrans, why aren’t you chaining yourself to Caltrans vehicles?’”
A California Highway Patrol officer confirmed the protests and the traffic problems to Land Line and said each protestor was issued a citation for obstructing traffic. The protestors were released at the scene.
Though the ordeal has cost him time and heartache, Dereck said he’s been able to keep his sense of humor.
During the three hours Dereck sat in his truck and as CHP officers pleaded with protestors, the OOIDA member did find a less serious moment.
A male protestor was locked onto the back of his trailer’s frame, near the truck’s air valve.
“About an hour-and-a-half in, I hit my switch,” said Dereck, who couldn’t hide a chuckle. “That gave him a little bit of a scare.”
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