A group of truck drivers that have protested COVID-19 mandates in the Washington area for several weeks is returning to California to protest bills coming up for votes soon in the Legislature, organizers said Sunday.
The caravan of semis, pickups and R.V.s, dubbed the People’s Convoy, will depart Hagerstown, Md., where drivers have been camped out at the Hagerstown Speedway.
The convoy has circled the D.C. Beltway in daily protest for weeks, calling for an end to COVID-19 masking and vaccination requirements as well as the federal government’s COVID-19 emergency declaration. At one point, the convoy entered the city and clogged up the streets.
The group is driving into California in protest of what organizers call the “most invasive COVID-19 legislation yet.” The list of bills proposed in the Legislature includes mandating COVID-19 vaccination for schools, requiring law enforcement officers to enforce public health orders and requiring proof of vaccination in order to work.
“I think stopping those is more important at this point in time than getting the emergency declaration repealed because that’s already in place and we need to stop stuff like these bills from getting in place,” said organizer Mike Landis in a livestream. “Otherwise, the rest of us that don’t live in California are going to end up subject to the same situation.”
Landis did not say when the group would leave the speedway. He invited participants to a Monday morning rally in Harrisburg, Pa., and said “then we’re going to start packing up and heading west,” the Herald-Mail reported.
Inspired by the “Freedom Convoy” in Canada that spent weeks protesting at the border and blockading the country’s capital, the protesters insist that “government has forgotten its place” and that COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates are unconstitutional.
Organizers have said the national emergency declaration is not necessary and must be removed to restore constitutional freedoms.
The group originally departed Adelanto, Calif., on Feb. 23, and arrived in Maryland a little over a week later. The convoy made stops in other states including Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department estimated that 100 big rigs and 500 to 600 cars gathered for the convoy in Adelanto.
Organizers of the convoy met with Republican lawmakers, including Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Ted Cruz of Texas, during their time protesting in the D.C. area, according to a news release.
They said the convoy making its way to the nation’s capital was not driven by partisan issues. But the desert landscape at the Feb. 23 rally in Adelanto was replete with “F— Biden” signs and banners supporting former President Trump. Several trucks were decked out with stickers calling for the release of Jan. 6 insurrectionists from federal custody, and multiple attendees wore apparel with alt-right and Nazi symbols.
Organizers have repeated false claims that COVID-19 vaccines kill more people than they save and promoted the unproven treatment of the virus using ivermectin.
According to its website, the group has raised more than $1.7 million through donations and is reimbursing fuel costs and food for the convoy’s participants.