U.S. truckers plan pandemic protest, inspired by Canadian counterparts

Truckers and their supporters begin to rally before a convoy departs the next morning bound for the nation’s capital to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates, in Adelanto, California, USA United, February 22, 2022. REUTERS / David Swanson

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ADELANTO, California, Feb 23 (Reuters) – Inspired by protests that have paralyzed Canada’s capital for weeks, U.S. truckers plan on Wednesday to embark on a 2,500-mile (4,000 km) crossing to Washington DC to protest coronavirus restrictions.

The organizers of the “People’s Convoy” say they want to “relaunch the economy” and reopen the country. Their 11-day trek will approach the ring road around the U.S. Capitol on March 5 “but will not go into DC proper,” according to a statement.

The Pentagon said Tuesday it had approved 400 DC National Guard troops to “provide support to designated traffic outposts, provide command and control, and cover sustainment requirements” from Feb. 26 to March 7. .

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About 50 large tactical vehicles have also been approved for placement at traffic posts.

Brian Brase, a truck driver who is one of the organizers, said no matter where the trucks stop, “we’re not going anywhere” until the group’s demands are met. These demands include an end to COVID-19 vaccine and mask requirements.

Most US states are already easing some restrictions. In California, where the convoy begins, universal mask requirements were lifted last week, while masks for vaccinated people are only required in high-risk areas such as public transportation, schools and health institutions.

Another convoy was scheduled to leave Scranton, Pa. — the hometown of President Joe Biden — Wednesday morning and arrive on the 495 Beltway in Washington in the afternoon.

Organizer Bob Bolus told WJLA news, an ABC affiliate in Washington, his convoy had no intention of breaking any laws or blocking traffic, but warned it could happen if their requests regarding pandemic mandates and fuel cost are not served.

“They are not going to intimidate us and they are not going to threaten us. We are the power, not them,” he said.

In Canada, pandemic-related protests have choked the streets of the capital Ottawa for more than three weeks and blocked the busiest land crossing between Canada and the United States – the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario. – for six days.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked rarely used emergency powers to end protests, and Canadian police restored a sense of normalcy to Ottawa over the weekend.

“We plan to stay a while and hope they don’t escalate the situation like Trudeau did with his disgusting excess of the government,” Brase said from Adelanto, Calif., where the convoy will start, about 130 km away. northeast of Los Angeles. .

Brase said he expected thousands, possibly tens of thousands, to attend. Organizers portray the convoy as non-partisan, led by truckers and supported by a wide range of ethnic minorities and religious faiths.

Economic growth in the United States – as in other countries – was brought to a screeching halt by the imposition of lockdowns in 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The economy has boomed since the federal government injected trillions of dollars in relief, growing 5.7% in 2021, the strongest since 1984, albeit from a low in 2020, reported the Commerce Department in January.

Meanwhile, unemployment stands at 4%, close to the 3.5% rate in February 2020, just before the pandemic took hold, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But headwinds from tight supply chains and inflation remain.

“Now is the time to reopen the country,” protest organizers said in a statement.

Among other demands, protesters want an immediate end to the state of emergency in California – the most populous US state and one of the world’s largest economies – which Governor Gavin Newsom has extended.

Nationally, new COVID-19 cases and coronavirus hospitalizations have fallen from historic highs reached a month ago, although nearly 2,000 people a day are still dying from the disease and the total number of deaths is approaching 1 million since the pandemic began.

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Reporting by Omar Youis in Adelanto; Additional reporting and writing by Daniel Trotta at Carlsbad; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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