WASHINGTON — America’s attempt to replicate the Canadian trucker protest movement got off to a slow start Wednesday as a modest number of trucks hit the road on their way to Washington, DC.
Loosely connected organizers are trying to replicate the success of the anti–vaccine mandate Freedom Convoy, which traveled from Western Canada to the capital city of Ottawa. Hundreds of vehicles and thousands of protesters effectively took over downtown Ottawa for three weeks before police cleared them out.
A lightly rebranded People’s Convoy took off from Southern California Wednesday in the same spirit. Around a dozen big rig trucks and a couple of hundred people gathered at a parking lot in the city of Adelanto for the kickoff, according to Ben Collins of NBC News. Their plan is to spend 11 days moving through Texas, then north to Indiana, then east arriving at Washington next Saturday. It’s not clear how many truckers are along for the full ride.
Meanwhile, another convoy from Scranton, Pennsylvania, was a bust, as only one truck, driven by organizer Bob Bolus, and a handful of personal vehicles showed up. They set out for Washington regardless.
The People’s Convoy will not make it to Washington in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday, but the Scranton group will. Bolus said his convoy would significantly disrupt traffic into the district, though he made those comments when he expected many more trucks to take part.
The Canadian truckers became an international cause celebre due to their shocking success in capturing the attention of a G7 nation. The protesters also blockaded border crossings, causing major trade disruptions.
Their American counterparts are starting small and may have a harder time replicating that energy. For one, their side has already largely won. Lockdowns and vaccine mandates have vanished in most jurisdictions as local and state governments bowed to pressure to reopen. The People’s Convoy website claims $465,000 has been raised in donations. The Canadian convoy earned millions from American donations alone, though most of that money has been returned or frozen by Canadian authorities.
The People’s Convoy will also not be able to waltz into downtown Washington and park around the Capitol building, robbing them of the dramatic images of Ottawa protesters partying in front of Parliament. In fact, organizers say that’s not even their goal. After discussing with local officials, the final destination is listed only as “DC Beltway area.”
“The People’s Convoy will abide by agreements with local authorities, and terminate in the vicinity of the DC area, but will NOT be going into DC proper,” says a convoy press release.
The Pentagon approved 700 unarmed National Guard troops to be deployed to the District of Columbia for traffic control starting next week. DC Police and US Capitol police had asked the Pentagon for reinforcements to deal with trucker convoys.
The Metropolitan Police Department of DC did not respond to questions of whether they reached out to Ottawa officials about their experience with the convoy.
The immediate plan for the People’s Convoy is to stop in Kingman, Arizona, for the night, then wake up and head east, hoping to attract more vehicles along the way. Their demands are to end the national state of emergency that was first declared in response to the COVID pandemic in March 2020 as well as to “restore our nation’s Constitution.”