WASHINGTON — A pro-truck rally scheduled on the same day as the State of the Union address gathered an immensely lower crowd than expected.
The "Stage of Freedom" event drew in about 20 people at the Sylvan Theater near the Washington Monument on Tuesday. The permit application for the rally called for an estimated attendance of "hopefully 1,000 - 3,000" people.
Organized by Maryland small business owner and independent gubernatorial candidate Kyle Sefcik, the rally showed no signs of trucks and ended earlier than scheduled.
Protesters who showed up said the goal was to stay peaceful and speak out against vaccine and mask mandates. The rally happened on the same day D.C. removed mask requirements in most indoor settings.
"We actually aren't anti-mask or anti-vax," protester Stephen Briner told WUSA9. "But the whole idea of being American is having the choice to decide."
There are several other truck convoy rallies that are planned to head to the DC region this week, but most have been small and uneventful. A convoy organized by a truck company owner in Scranton, Pa. failed to materialize despite claims thousands of drivers would participate.
Although the convoys have failed to make an impact in the District, law enforcement has not taken the threat of possible disruptions lightly. More claimed they are on their way including the People's Convoy, which is likely the largest group of truck protesters.
Protesters who are part of the People's Convoy stress their demonstration will remain peaceful. The line of trucks snaked its way from Missouri and will take a break in Indiana before traveling east on Thursday, per a protester.
They anticipate staging somewhere outside of DC.
"The whole convoy is peaceful," participant Jonie Smith, who collected food for protesters recently, told WUSA9. "We want to keep the public on our side and not destroy that relationship because we want that support but we still want our voices heard."
"Sometimes you don't know what you don't know and we want to be in a posture of preparedness here in Washington DC," D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said.
D.C. police have deployed their civil disturbance units since and blocked roads using several dump trucks since last week.
Security preparation with federal agencies has been robust, especially since the Jan. 6 insurrection.
The D.C. National Guard is available for assistance until next Monday, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser. Maryland and Virginia State Police have maintained monitoring interstates while the temporary fencing reinstalled around the Capitol for the State of the Union will stay for about a week, according to the office of Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
"Once we get through the State of the Union and have a successful event, a decision will be made soon after about the removal of that fence," United States Capitol Police Assistant Chief Sean Gallagher said.