A fleet of truckers protesting the government’s response to COVID-19 and other grievances returned to the Capital Beltway on Monday, ringing Washington to draw attention to their cause.
“We are here to make the voices of the American people heard, express their deepest concerns, and affect meaningful change now,” the “People’s Convoy” said in a media statement posted on Instagram.
Organizers of the protest said on their website that they had no plans to enter the city, and authorities in Maryland and Virginia said Monday afternoon they had yet to cause any major traffic jams, in part because the group arrived well after the morning rush hour.
The protest could run several days after truckers made two noisy laps on Sunday around the 64-mile (103 kilometer) Interstate 495.
Representatives of the People’s Convoy say they are calling for an end to the state of emergency that’s led to vaccine mandates by some governments and want Congressional hearings to examine the response to the pandemic. Many jurisdictions have already lifted mask mandates.
The Capitol Police Board, which oversees the agencies that protect Congress and Capitol Hill, issued an emergency declaration Sunday. The board warned that the protesters could shut highways, bridges and roadways.
The emergency declaration allows U.S. Capitol Police to request aid from the National Guard. It also allows payment of hotel and food bills for officers so they can stay near the Capitol. The Pentagon said Monday it was extending previously approved use of National Guard troops through Wednesday to help with traffic control.
Protesters drew inspiration from Canadian truckers who blockaded Ottawa for three weeks in February and caused a shutdown of the Ambassador Bridge, which links Ontario and Michigan and is a key trade artery. Temporary fencing was reinstalled around the Capitol in February as federal security officials responded to reports of truckers driving toward Washington at the time.
The emergency declaration cited the Canadian protests. It said Capitol Police will work with local law enforcement to manage transportation routes, potentially setting up checkpoints to keep roads clear. Members of Congress and their staff were advised to consider telework, commutes by subways or regional rail lines, or to consider alternative routes should they choose to drive.
Washington has already relaxed rules around Covid protections in recent weeks. The city lifted its mask mandate in certain settings such as restaurants, bars and gyms on March 1. A requirement that venues verify that patrons are vaccinated ended in February, though businesses can choose to keep vaccination requirements in place.
On Sunday, the trucks, many of them festooned with American flags, honked their horns whenever they saw supporters waving from overpasses or other vehicles. Rigs in the convoy made most of the journey traveling in the middle lane and slightly under the posted speed limit, radio station WTOP reported. It took between 30 and 35 minutes for it to pass.
After circling the Beltway twice Sunday, most of the trucks headed north to Hagerstown, Maryland, where they had assembled on Friday.
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