BUTTE, Mont. — The message has always been the same: We want our freedoms back. What exactly that means for the People's Convoy of truckers that have now traversed the country East-to-West-to back East again remains less clear. But what is clear is that their protest will be coming back to the DMV later this month.
The People's Convoy, an activist organization started by truckers during the height of the COVID-19 omicron variant surge protesting the series of mask and vaccine mandates enacted to ensure public health, have been pushing for an end to the federal emergency declaration related to the pandemic that they say infringes on their constitutional rights.
"We're not heroes, but we are fed up Americans," said one speaker at a rally in Olympia on Sunday. "If we don't stand up, our country is doomed."
The group left Washington state and has made stops in Portland, Oregon, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Boise, Idaho to pick up more spirited protesters in their big rigs.
As of Friday, the convoy was leaving an overnight stop in Butte, Montana and had planned stops through the weekend in Wyoming, Nebraska, and a rally in Des Moines, Iowa on May 11. At that rate, it could be two weeks before protestors enter the DMV.
The protests began in February 2022 with a trip from California across the U.S. ending in the nation's capital, emulating the Canadian trucker protests that shut down their country's government for about a month over vaccine mandates. The People's Convoy set up camp at the Hagerstown Speedway where they would set off on daily trips around the DC beltway causing road closures and traffic delays.
However, leadership setbacks, confusion about logistics, and infighting about the best protest strategy caused the messaging and enthusiasm to fizzle. The leaders and most popular streamers went home to spend time with families and off on 'much-needed vacations' away from their cause.
The convoy left the DMV and went back to the West Coast, focused on fundraising efforts and a state-by-state organizing effort to get Americans to join the cause. Now, after a few weeks in the Pacific Northwest, the group has gone wheels up and is on its way back to D.C.
But the embattled organization has not been without its dissenters. As recently as Thursday, the official Facebook page showed heated posts and comments arguing about what the convoy's mission should be about.
"How on earth do ya carry on fighting for the dumbest stuff?" posted one woman claiming to be the wife of a trucker who had originally supported the convoy's efforts. "My god the entire industry is on its knees because of so so many reasons and yall [sic] want to talk about masks!!!???"
The group is also suing the D.C. government and MPD over the traffic blockades that prevented the protests from reaching downtown D.C., which police cited as a safety precaution. Incidents in the past week with convoy participants and counter-protesters firing weapons at each other have also put a stain on the narrative of a peaceful protest.
According to WUSA9's sister station in Portland (KGW), officers responded to a report of people "throwing objects" from the Northeast Glisan Street overpass above I-205, along with a report of shots fired.
"Portland Police were monitoring a protest 'convoy' that was driving through Portland and counterdemonstrators confronting them," PPB said in a statement. "Officers determined that the shot fired call was likely related."
Officers did recover evidence of at least one shot fired, but did not find anyone who had been hit. PPB said that a group of about 15 people were "yelling at and harassing officers" during the investigation. No arrests were made.
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