A convoy of truckers from around the country converged on the Capital Beltway outside Washington on Sunday to protest vaccine and mask mandates, continuing to rally behind the movement even as its demands have been undercut by the rollback of COVID-19 restrictions in many states as virus cases and deaths have fallen.
The collection of trucks and cars circled the Beltway twice before returning to a staging area in Maryland. The protests’ organizers have emphasized throughout their journey that they do not intend to enter the city of D.C.
Protestors failed to significantly slow traffic across the entire Beltway but said they were still happy with the recognition the convoy received.
“Our current plan has never been to go cause trouble or anything at all,” said Jimmy Fletcher, who has worked as a truck driver for 22 years and helped run security for the convoy.
“We’ve asked for the politicians to come talk and they still wouldn’t come,” he said. “We did get some recognition doing this and that’s why we decided to go down there and try it.”
Inspired by a similar protest in Ottawa, Canada last month, the People’s Convoy began in California on Feb. 23 and reached the Washington area on Friday. Although plans for the protest remain unclear for the days ahead, supporters of the convoy said they intend to continue supporting the movement.
Mike Smith, a truck driver from Ohio, said he plans to stick around as long as he can but added he doesn’t know what lies ahead for the week, saying “It don’t bother me; I wanna stand up.”
“All I know is day-by-day,” Smith said. “They’re keeping it so secretive.”
After completing the loops around the Beltway, the convoy returned to the Hagerstown Speedway in Hagerstown, Maryland, about 60 miles north of Washington D.C. where they have been gathering or the past two days.
Fletcher said he could not divulge information about the convoy’s plans for the future due to security concerns, adding that he had heard reports about rocks being thrown at members of the convoy.
Fletcher estimated that 6,000 vehicles traveled with the convoy, joining 3,000 that were already in the area, bringing participation close to 9,000 on Sunday. However, recent estimates from The Washington Post placed participation closer to 1,000 vehicles.
As the convoy traveled along the Beltway on Sunday, the protesters were met by supporters staged at overpasses, holding signs in support. Vehicles in the convoy and supporters at various overlooks also carried an assortment of flags, including Blues Lives Matter, Don’t Tread on Me, Canadian and American flags.
At an overpass outside of Rockville, Maryland, Tom Wisner said he came out to support the truck convoy because he supports more choice in vaccination.
“It’s important that the government doesn’t dictate or become tyrannical over its citizens,” Wisner said. “It should be individual choices and they should be able to decide if they want to get a vaccine or if they want to wear a mask or if they want to continue working at their job.”
Wisner added that his support for the movement goes beyond mask and vaccine mandates for truckers, rather it’s about “free government” and limiting government and corporate involvement in people’s everyday lives.