Demonstrators Target US Capital
American truck drivers prepare to leave for Washington, DC to protest COVID-19 mandates on February 22, 2022 in Adelanto, California, to call for a full re-opening of the country. US daily new cases dropped below 100,000 in the past week, for the first time in three months.
Hundreds of trucks, recreational vehicles and cars circled the outskirts of Washington on Sunday, aiming to slow traffic around the capital as part of a protest against pandemic restrictions.
The so-called “People’s Convoy,” which originated in California and has drawn participants from around the country, is calling for an end to all pandemic-related restrictions.
Leaders of the convoy said that on Monday they would again slowly drive the Beltway, a 64-mile (103-kilometer) highway that encircles the city.
Hundreds of vehicles gathered on Friday and Saturday at the Hagerstown Speedway, a racetrack in Maryland.
On Sunday morning, many left in convoy to drive two slow laps on the Beltway. They honked their horns as they set off, while onlookers waved US flags, according to a Reuters witness.
The convoy, more than 2 miles long, slowed traffic at points along the Beltway by late Sunday morning, but did not bring it to a standstill. It returned to the Hagerstown Speedway in the afternoon, according to messages on the convoy’s Telegram channel.
The convoy’s protest against vaccine requirements and other pandemic restrictions has been undercut in recent weeks as major US cities have rolled back mask mandates and other measures against COVID-19 with infections and hospitalizations declining dramatically.
President Joe Biden, a Democrat, signaled in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that the country was entering a new, phase of the pandemic without business lockdowns, school closures or other daily disruptions.
At the racetrack on Friday night, one participant who described himself as the lead trucker told a cheering crowd he would drive his truck into the heart of the US capital.
“DC, the government, whomever, can claim that they have all this opposition for us waiting in DC,” the man said.
“But that flag on the back of my truck will go down to Constitution Avenue between the White House and the Washington Monument.”
US federal law enforcement agencies have been coordinating with state and local authorities for weeks in preparation for the possible arrival of the convoy, according to one US official who requested anonymity to discuss internal government operations.