A group of truckers similar to those whose defiant blockades have shut down border crossings into the U.S. and Canada for weeks are bringing their protests over COVID-19 mandates to California.
Organizers are hoping to have 1,000 semi-truck drivers in their ranks by Wednesday, when a group calling itself the People’s Convoy leaves Adelanto and begins an 11-day trek to Washington, D.C., with the expected convoy aimed at disrupting traffic around the Capitol ahead of the March 1 State of the Union address.
Inspired by the Freedom Convoy in Canada, the People’s Convoy protesters insist that “government has forgotten its place” and that COVID-19 vaccination and mask mandates are unconstitutional stretches of power.
As the Omicron surge of the coronavirus has receded across the U.S. and more states begin to lift mask mandates, similar caravans and blockades have started to pop up across the globe.
In the U.S., the loosely organized effort has gained momentum. But just how many truckers will ultimately participate remains unclear. Talk of a Super Bowl rally never came to fruition.
After weeks of on-and-off promises of a start in California, organizers announced a noon staging at Adelanto Stadium, followed by a public send-off rally at 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to co-organizer Maureen Steele.
On Tuesday, a small number of truckers began gathering at the Adelanto Stadium, where like-minded conservative groups huddled. Their rigs were decorated with stars and stripes and messages including “Let’s Go, Brandon” — a common phrase to deride President Biden.
Trucker Mike Landis, who said he supports coronavirus safety precautions, said the protest isn’t for the truckers, it’s “for the people — hence the name the people’s convoy.”
“[The] fact is we have a government that tries to push us around,” Landis said. “At this moment, we are living without our Constitution. Our Constitution means nothing right now.”
While promoted heavily on the conservative NewsMax cable TV network and tightly connected to an array of far-right conservatives, the People’s Convoy organizers are seeking to portray their group as an umbrella for those opposed to vaccine mandates.
“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 group said in a statement.
Organizers say they do not intend to disrupt roads or bridges like the events in Canada.
“The People’s Convoy will abide by agreements with local authorities and terminate in the vicinity of the D.C. area, but will NOT be going into D.C. proper,” the group said in a statement.
An announcement of the route said that locations and times may change, but the convoy is first slated to stop in Kingman, Ariz., before traveling through New Mexico and Texas and arriving in Oklahoma on Saturday. It then will cut through Missouri, Indiana and Ohio before heading to Hagerstown, Md., and ultimately arriving in Washington, D.C. on March 5.
But some participants are already calling for wider blockades. Trucker Bob Bolos told NewsNow on Monday that the Beltway and other roads in and out of the D.C. area will be shut down.
And some experts are warning that the convoys — which have garnered support from some Republican politicians and right-wing media — could create a harrowing repeat of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, when law enforcement was woefully unprepared for the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Such is the level of concern that the Department of Defense is considering a request from the U.S. Capitol Police and the Washington, D.C., government to have the National Guard assist.
Although the People’s Convoy is not expected to arrive from California until after Biden’s address to Congress, the D.C. Metropolitan Police has added 500 officers to its deployment for every day in early March. Plans are also being worked on to erect a massive fence similar to the one put around Capitol Hill following the Jan. 6 riot.
At the California rally on Wednesday, organizers say truckers will hear words of encouragement and blessings from a group of speakers supporting them on their journey. The group has amassed more than $311,000 to support the big-rig drivers making the journey.