A group of protesters protesting COVID-19 restrictions in the United States planned to circle the nation’s capital on Sunday.
The group, known as the People’s Convoy and inspired by Canada’s Freedom Convoy, were driving in one lane and driving below the speed limit on Interstate 495, also known as the Capital Beltway, WTOP reported.
Members of the convoy, expected to contain hundreds of vehicles ranging in size from semi-trucks to standard-sized cars, planned to circle the interstate twice, seeking to slow traffic to draw attention to their cause, before returning to a staging area in Maryland and potentially repeating the demonstration in the days ahead.
“The People’s Convoy plans to circle the Beltway and has been working with local and state law enforcement to find the best time to travel,” Lynne Kristensen, a representative for the convoy told WTOP.
Although the convoy originally planned to drive into Washington, D.C., organizers said they did not plan to drive into the capital Sunday over concerns that “outside agitators” may seek to escalate the demonstration to a situation similar to the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol Building, The New York Times reported.
The main convoy departed from Adelanto, Calif., late last month and traveled across the United States, carrying demands such as ending all mask and vaccine mandates put in place in response to the pandemic to calling for President Joe Biden to end the State of Emergency declared by former President Donald Trump at the start of the pandemic.
Their protest prompted Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to approve about 700 National Guard members to aid police ahead of the convoy’s arrival.
Christopher Rodriguez, director of the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, confirmed the convoy had signaled it planned to remain outside Washington, D.C., proper. He added, however, that National Guard members were stationed around the city with personnel, equipment and heavy vehicles to meet the truckers should they decide to enter the capital.
Unlike the Canadian Freedom Convoy — which blocked various roads, including the Ambassador Bridge linking Ontario and Detroit, and ultimately led to the arrests of almost 200 people — the People’s Convoy has not sought to completely obstruct roadways or bridges.
Maryland and Virginia State Police urged motorists to prepare for heavy traffic and seek alternate routes due to the demonstration, adding that they have spoken with the protest’s leaders and are monitoring their actions.
“Virginia State Police respects the public’s First Amendment rights and has been in contact with various groups’ organizers to ensure their understanding of Virginia traffic laws,” the agency said in a press release. “These communications have also enabled us to share our expectations related to keeping traffic flowing safely and efficiently on Virginia highways, especially in the case of emergencies and for hte first responder vehicles.”
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