A convoy of semi trucks and passenger vehicles took to the D.C. Beltway for the first time Sunday and are planning to lumber around the freeway loop for a second day. Organizers say the protest will endure until their demands are met, but those demands are even hazier than the ones of the Canadian Freedom Convoy.
Update Tuesday, March 8, 9:00 a.m EST - The planned Monday looping of the Beltway didn’t do much either. The plan was to slow down traffic, but much of the convoy got separated in the normal heavy afternoon traffic of the freeway. Members of the convoy who’s vehicles broke down did more to slow traffic, according to the Daily Beast. Protesters are split over whether or not to enter D.C. proper. In the mean time, some protesters are reporting confusion, saying they aren’t getting money from the donation campaign to fuel their vehicles.
Two previous copycat convoys have already fizzled out. The Sunday dry run didn’t pan out as truckers probably hoped, either, according to Daily Beast reporter Zachary Petrizzo:
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This Convoy’s organizers have stressed that they will remain peaceful and have no plans to enter D.C. proper or block major international bridges, like the Canadian Freedom Convoy. Christopher Rodriguez, director of the District of Columbia’s Homeland and Emergency Management Agency, estimated 1,000 to 2,000 vehicles could join the protest, but WUSA9 reported only dozens of vehicles and about 18 semis are currently participating in the convoy Monday morning.
Still, D.C. officials are closely watching the convoy. The Department of Defense approved a request from D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to extend the National Guard presence leftover from the State Of The Union address to March 9, CNN reports. The Capitol Police Board issued an emergency declaration Sunday in order to better protect lawmakers and federal buildings.
Organizers are planning for a second rounding of the Beltway sometime Monday afternoon from a truck stop turned gathering place in Maryland. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) have agreed to meet with protesters on Tuesday, according to WUSA9. These truckers won’t be hauling trailers along, making the protest at least a little more palatable to those commuting on the Beltway. Organizers have also requested no children be present during the demonstration, which was a major concern for Ottawa police when they cleared out the original Freedom Convoy last month.
CNN brings up a salient point (one I’ve made in the past) when it comes to the protesters’s demands:
In a news release, the “People’s Convoy” pointed to declining Covid-19 cases, vaccines and therapeutics, saying it was “time to reopen the country.”
“To that end, it’s time for elected officials to work with the blue-collar and white-collar workers of America and restore accountability and liberty by lifting all mandates and ending the state of emergency — as COVID is well-in-hand now, and Americans need to get back to work in a free and unrestricted manner,” the release said.
Many cities and states have already started lifting such measures while Covid-19 hospitalizations and new cases drop, including New York state, which lifted this week most mask mandates and requirements to show proof of vaccination for indoor activities.
A growing number of states — the majority of which have Democratic governors — announced in recent weeks they would lift indoor or school mask mandates, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.
Everything about the Freedom Convoy is annoying (especially the way they complain about gas prices while driving giant, fuel-sucking semis aimlessly in circles) but one of the most needling aspects to me is that COVID-19 mandates were put in place, not at the federal level, but by governors and mayors. In Canada, at least the messaging from the federal government was consistent, and providences tended to follow strict guidelines. Still, those decisions were made at the provincial level. In the U.S., our own president was contradicting his own experts. All states experienced some sort of lockdown, but some did very little else stem the spread of COVID during the worst of things or even enforce those lockdowns in any way. It remains such a complete mishmash of reactions to the pandemic that the Centers for Disease Control still recommends looking up COVID-19 restrictions before traveling to a different state.
If you are a federal employee, yes you are mandated to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If you’re visiting a federal building, you need to wear a mask. If you are traveling between countries those countries, as well as our own, have an interest in setting a vaccine mandate or COVID-19 protocols. Even if this convoy was able to life COVID-19 restrictions for international truckers, Canada and Mexico still requires such a vaccine. Air travel is regulated by the federal government, so you have to wear a mask. But so much of what the convoy wants addressed — on the ground lockdowns, mask mandates, and proof of vaccination requirements — are set at state and local and sometimes, down to certain venue’s levels. I’ve been in concert venues that wanted proof of vaccines before entry, for instance. Going to D.C. to have those lifted is like going to your school board and demanding Harvard stop teaching critical race theory. They just don’t have the authority to do that and the demand shows a basic misunderstanding of how things operate.
We are keeping an eye on this story and update it as things progress.