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Trucks, RVs and cars flock to DC area to protest COVID restrictions

Trucks, RVs and cars flock to DC area to protest COVID restrictions

WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) – More than a thousand large trucks, RVs and cars gather on the outskirts of Washington as part of a protest against COVID-19 restrictions that threaten to drive on the American capital in the coming days.

The so-called “People’s Convoy,” which originated in California and has drawn participants from across the country, is calling for an end to all pandemic-related restrictions. He was inspired by the protests last month that brought Ottawa, Canada’s capital, to a standstill.

The convoy’s message has been undermined in recent weeks as major US cities rolled back mask mandates and other COVID-19 measures, resulting in more than 950,000 US deaths but has been mitigated through vaccines and therapies. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, signaled in his State of the Union address on Tuesday that the country was entering a new, more controlled phase of the pandemic with no business closures or school closures. Read more

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Still, more than 100 18-wheeler trucks piled up with other vehicles on Friday night at Hagerstown Speedway, a circuit about 80 miles from downtown Washington, Reuters witnesses said. Drivers continued to stream into the parking lot on Saturday morning, a witness said.

A website for the protest said they had no plans to enter “DC proper” and social media posts suggested they could remain at the racetrack on Saturday. But a participant who described himself as the lead trucker told a cheering crowd at the racetrack on Friday night that he would drive his truck through the heart of the US capital.

“DC, the government, whoever it is, can claim that they have all this opposition waiting for us in DC,” the man said. “But this flag on the back of my truck will come down Constitution Avenue between the White House and the Washington Monument.”

Just over a year ago, supporters of former Republican President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in an attack that left five people dead and more than 100 police officers injured. Read more

US federal law enforcement has been coordinating with state and local authorities for weeks in preparation for the convoy’s possible arrival, said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal operations.

A Feb. 26 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bulletin to law enforcement reviewed by Reuters said trucking convoys could impede emergency responders depending on the scale of the protest.

The bulletin says federal law enforcement was unaware of any substantiated threats from domestic violent extremists, but some extremists “will likely be drawn to the event and may engage in premeditated violence. or opportunists.

The DHS said the possibility of an attack could be higher because COVID restrictions have been a “key driver” of domestic extremist violence over the past two years. Federal officials are unlikely to see violent conspiracies on public online platforms beforehand due to the use of encrypted apps and private forums, he said.

Federal law enforcement is also mindful of the need to respect the right to peaceful protest, the official said.

On Friday evening, a Silver Spring, Maryland woman who identified herself only as “Dorothy” said she opposed COVID restrictions and the issue had caused divisions in her family and problems at work.

“I think our medical choices are private and we shouldn’t be required to disclose them to participate in day-to-day activities,” she told Reuters.

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Reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington and Leah Millis, Julio-Cesar Chavez and Stephanie Keith in Hagerstown, Maryland; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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