A US trucker convoy embarked on a 2,500 mile cross-country trip from Barstow, California to Washington, DC on Wednesday, to protest against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates.
Inspired by the demonstrations that paralyzed Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, for weeks, the “People’s Convoy,” among several others across the country, is set to arrive in Washington at various points through late next week.
Pandemic-related protests in Ottawa lasted for three weeks, inspiring actions like the blocking of the busiest Canada-US land crossing at the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan — for six days.
Just over two dozen trucks moved to the front of the convoy as it left Barstow.
The bulk of the convoy was made up mostly of regular cars, many with American flags and anti-Joe Biden banners. “If my truck makes it, I’ll be there,” John Elleege, who has been a trucker for 45 years, told The Guardian in an interview on Wednesday.
Elleege sat in his big rig while people walked past thanking him, with one woman asking him to autograph her American flag. He said he was planning to drive all the way to the US capital.
The trip, via Barstow, will take 11 days and organizers say they should reach Washington on March 5.
Troops approved on Tuesday, the Pentagon said
Some groups are expected to arrive in Washington, just in time for Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, with many others arriving later, although they “will not be going into DC proper,” the group said in a statement.
It’s unclear how large the protest will be, but organizers expect thousands to join.
The Pentagon is so worried about the demonstrators’ plans, they have approved 700 National Guard troops to help at traffic posts, with 50 large tactical vehicles to be placed at traffic posts, if needed.
Goals of the “People’s Convoy”
Organizers say they want to “jumpstart the economy” and totally reopen the US.
Their demands include an end to COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements.
Regardless, as to where the trucks stop, “We’re not going anywhere” until the group’s demands are met, Brian Brase, a truck driver who is one of the organizers, said in an interview with The Guardian on Wednesday.
Most US states are already easing some restrictions, however.
In California, universal mask requirements were lifted last week while masks for vaccinated people are required only in high-risk areas, such as public transit and schools, but that process has been relatively slow.
Trucker convoys nationwide depart for Washington
Another convoy left Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday.
In an interview with WJLA, an organizer said the convoy has no intention of breaking laws or blocking traffic, although it could happen if their demands, such as the end of vaccine mandates, are not met.
“They are not going to intimidate us and they are not going to threaten us. We’re the power, not them,” Bob Bolus, a trucker who owns a tow truck company, said.