By NATASHA ANDERSON and STEPHEN M. LEPORE and ANDREA BLANCO and MICHELLE THOMPSON and ALAN BUTTERFIELD
February 23, 2022
As many as 1,000 truckers are expected to gather in California on Wednesday to embark on an 11-day trek to Washington DC in an effort to protest what they claim are unconstitutional COVID-19 mandates.
The People’s Convoy – inspired by Canada’s Freedom Convoy which included weeks of demonstrations and blockades that shut down border crossings into the US – argues the ‘government has forgotten its place’ and seeks to advocate for all Americans.
It has called on the federal government to end the National Emergency enacted at the start of the pandemic, arguing that the threat posed by the virus has now receded. President Joe Biden extended the emergency – which was set to expire next week – last Friday, arguing ‘the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause significant risk to the public health and safety of the nation’.
Biden elected to extend the National Emergency despite calls from 70 House Republicans and Department of Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra urging him to end the declaration. The leaders cited access to vaccines, treatments and mental health impacts as reasons to let the order expire, as well as the fact that other nations have started transitioning out of pandemic restrictions.
‘[The] fact is we have a government that tries to push us around,’ trucker Mike Landis told the Los Angeles Times Tuesday when asked about the People’s Convoy. ‘At this moment, we are living without our Constitution. Our Constitution means nothing right now.’
Landis, who supports COVID safety measures, argued the protest is not about truckers but instead it is ‘for the people — hence the name the people’s convoy.’
Organizers, in a statement, echoed Landis’ sentiment saying: ‘This convoy is about freedom and unity: The truckers are riding unified across party and state lines and with people of all colors and creeds — Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Mormons, Agnostics, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Republican, Democrats.’
The cavalcade will set off from the Adelanto Stadium at midday PST Wednesday. It will then head to Kingman and Lupton in Arizona, Glenrio in Texas, Elk City and Vinita in Oklahoma and Sullivan in Missouri.
Truckers will then head to Indianapolis, Cambridge in Ohio and Hagerstown in Maryland, before their anticipated arrival at the DC Beltway on March 5.
People’s Convoy organizers claim they do not intend to disrupt roads or bridges, like the Canadian protest did.
GOP Rep. Ralph Norman, of South Carolina, told DailyMail.com that he supports the People’s Convoy in their protest of COVID mandates: ‘Americans have every right to be angry at this government, and I believe these individuals speak for more than just themselves. I support their right to lawfully protest, without disrupting commerce, essential services, or the lives of others.’
However, some semi-truck drivers are already calling for widespread blockades, including Bob Bolus who on Monday vowed the Beltway and other roads in and out of DC will be shut down.
The convoy is expected to arrive in DC in early March which some experts allege could disrupt traffic around the Capitol ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. Others have expressed concern that the convoy could result in a recreation of the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
Capitol Hill staffers were sent a memo warning the ‘potential impacts of truck convoys may be coincide with the State of the Union Address to Congress and extend through mid-March. Senate staff in D.C. and state offices should anticipate that these convoys may cause higher than normal traffic volumes and possible transportation disruptions on and around roadways in the Washington, DC area, and along various roadways throughout the country.’
The Pentagon is expected to approve the deployment of 700 to 800 unarmed National Guard troops to the nation’s capital, a U.S. official said Tuesday, in face of trucker convoys.
The Metropolitan Police Department of DC has added 500 officers to its deployment each day in early March and the fencing that surrounded the Capitol complex for much of 2021 will be reinstalled next week.
Meanwhile, separate truck convoys have been planned in the US through online forums – with names like the American Truckers Freedom Fund – all with different starting points, departure dates and routes.
The protesters want an immediate end to the two-year-old state of emergency, which will now be extended beyond March 1 due to what Biden said was an ‘ongoing risk to public health posed by the coronavirus’. The People’s Convoy also seeks an end to vaccine and mask requirements. Nineteen states currently have vaccine mandates in effect.
‘It is now time to reopen the country,’ the protest organizers said in a statement, adding that regardless of where the trucks stop ‘we’re not going anywhere’ until demands are met.
Fellow Americans are issuing support for the truckers through a 3,000 person demonstration planned near the Washington Monument on the morning of March 1, the day of Biden’s State of the Union address. According to National Park Service applications obtained by Congressional Correspondent Scott MacFarlane, the protest is ‘against mandates’ and in ‘support of convoys in Canada and the lifting of mandates in DC/USA’. The protest permit application is still under consideration.
The American convoys follow the recent Canadian truckers’ protest which besieged the streets of the capital, Ottawa, for weeks to protest government pandemic restrictions. The multiple blockades were broken up by police last week, with nearly 200 arrests.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked rarely used emergency powers to end the protests, and Canadian police restored a sense of normalcy in Ottawa over the weekend.
‘We plan to stay a while and hope they don’t escalate it the way Trudeau did with his disgusting government overreach,’ Brian Brase, a truck driver who is one of the People’s Convoy organizers, told Reuters Wednesday from Adelanto, California.
The People’s Convoy is slated to depart Adelanto, California – located about 85 miles outside of Los Angeles – Wednesday at noon local time following a 10am public send-off rally.
A small number of truckers began gathering at the Adelanto Stadium on Tuesday with decorated rigs sporting stars and stripes and anti-Biden messages including ‘Let’s Go Brandon.’
The route, which organizers say could change, is expected to stop in Kingman, Arizona before traveling through New Mexico and Texas and arriving in Oklahoma on Saturday.
Drivers will then continue through Missouri, Indiana and Ohio before heading to Hagerstown, Maryland and ultimately arriving in DC on March 5 – after Biden’s annual address to Congress.
The District of Columbia government – including Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser – and the U.S. Capitol Police are requesting the National Guard assistance.
The troops would be used largely to help control traffic and are expected to come from the district’s National Guard and three states, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss aid not yet formally approved.