Updated February 23, 2022 - 9:48 am
Update – 2/23/22: The truck convoy protesting COVID mandates gathered for a rally ahead of its departure from California Wednesday morning.
VICTORVILLE, Calif. — Supporters of a cross-country trucker convoy started trickling into the California desert Tuesday, a day before the group hits the road to protest COVID-19 mandates and emergency measures.
More than a thousand truckers are expected to join “The People’s Convoy” as it makes its way from a town about 85 miles east of Los Angeles toward the nation’s capital, where the convoy is scheduled to disperse on March 5. The convoy is not expected to actually enter the capital city, however.
About a dozen trucks were in a meeting spot for the event early Tuesday afternoon.
Maureen Steele, national organizer for the convoy, said the goals of the demonstration are freedom, liberty, accountability, ending a national emergency declaration for COVID-19 and for the Constitution “to reign supreme.”
She said she hopes the convoy leads to congressional hearings on the handling of the pandemic and investigations at the local, state and federal levels.
“We can’t have what’s happened over the last two years ever happen again in the future, and we need to put safeguards in place to ensure that it doesn’t,” Steele said. “And in the end, I’d like to see freedom restored, the freedoms and liberties that we’ve lost over the last two years.”
The demonstration that kicks off Wednesday was planned in just a few weeks and follows a similar convoy that led to protests, disturbances and arrests in Ottawa, Canada. It also comes the same month California, Nevada and other states have either eased or lifted pandemic-related mandates.
Despite the easing of pandemic mandates on the state level, President Joe Biden on Friday extended the national emergency for COVID-19.
“And that’s really what we’re after,” Steele said.
It’s still unclear how many truckers are expected to depart from the parking lot of a ballpark in Adelanto, California, Wednesday morning when a series of speakers send the rigs on their way.
After leaving Adelanto, the truckers will travel down Interstate 40 to Kingman, Arizona. The convoy is not planning to travel through Las Vegas.
Those who showed up to the parking lot Tuesday braved blustery conditions, with wind kicking sand up in the air.
Vendors sold smothered fries and burgers from food trailers and others sold flags and anti-Joe Biden apparel. Truckers who had parked in the lot early displayed signs in their windows that read “FREEDOM” and “God Bless America” and “I will not comply.”
Volunteers loaded mounds of donated supplies into a trailer that will hit the road with the big rigs for the roughly 2,500-mile journey. In the first 30 minutes the parking lot was open Tuesday, the convoy received $15,000 in cash donations.
“I just think it speaks volumes for the temperature of the American people,” Steele said. “They want this. They want their freedoms back. People are done.”
Money flowing in
As of Monday morning, the convoy had raised more than $300,000, according to the demonstration’s website.
One trucker who plans to make the entire trip is Ron Coleman, a Reno resident who said he will be rolling in his green Kenworth truck to “fight for our freedoms.” He said he wants to call attention to mandates that he said are not legal.
“That’s not how we live,” he said. “Not in America. In America, we have a legislative process, and they’re acting against our legislative process when they do a mandate rather than trying to create a law.”
He said leaders want to take away freedoms and human rights.
“They want to inject the poisons in our blood against our will, really to just have work,” he said. “That’s not right. That’s not America.”
Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Biden Administration COVID-19 vaccination mandate for large businesses. COVID-19 vaccines have been proven safe and highly effective in deterring serious illness and death, according to public health officials.
Event organizers and supporters have stressed that the convoy is not political and is intended to be a peaceful, lawful demonstration with security measures in place.
National Guard likely going to DC for convoys
The Pentagon is expected to approve the deployment of 700 to 800 unarmed National Guard troops to the nation’s capital, a U.S. official said Tuesday, in the face of trucker convoys that are planning protests against pandemic restrictions beginning next week.
The District of Columbia government and the U.S. Capitol Police are requesting the National Guard assistance.
The troops would be used largely to help control traffic and are expected to come from the district’s National Guard and three states, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss aid not yet formally approved.
— The Associated Press