Canadian inspired American truckers reach Washington 

March 8, 2022 - 11:56

TEHRAN- More than a thousand large trucks, recreational vehicles, and other cars have encircled the outskirts of Washington, that may force motorists to wait in a long line of traffic blocks around the city as part of anti-government protests that threaten to roll on the U.S. capital in the coming days.

The “People’s Convoy” is one of several national and international movement groups inspired by similar anti-government protests that began in Canada. 

After weeks of Canadian truckers blocking major routes in central Ottawa and trade crossing points with America in protest at multiple grievances, the country’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was heavily criticized for invoking rare emergency powers allowing security personnel to use extra force to disperse the protesters. 

Critics say the Canadian government’s reluctance to listen to the demands of the protesters but rather crackdown on them would only divide Canadians further. Lawmakers accused the prime minister of using "the politics of division rather than cooperation and understanding.”

Critics say Canada’s mishandling of the trucker’s protest has inspired similar methods of protest in other countries. The American convoys themselves say part of their protest is in solidarity with the Canadian truckers. 

The American group dubbed the "People's Convoy," which began marching from the Western State of California, has been drawing participants from across the country. The protesters, who argue that American authorities have deprived them off their freedom during the Coronavirus pandemic, are calling for an end to all pandemic-related restrictions. 

Many of the protesters who reached near Washington have been driving slowly in laps on the Beltway (a highway that surrounds the American capital) in the form of a circle. According to witnesses, they honked their horns as they set off, while onlookers cheered on in support of the demonstration.

The “people’s convoy”, which is reportedly several miles long, was slowing traffic at points along the Beltway but has not brought it to a standstill yet. The convoy's main protest is against vaccine requirements and other pandemic restrictions that have actually been slowly removed in recent weeks as major U.S. cities have rolled back mask mandates and other measures against COVID-19.

The convoy left California more than a week ago and made it to the East Coast by Saturday about 70 miles northwest of the capital, converging with other drivers and their supporters.

As part of an ongoing nationwide effort by citizens fighting for freedoms they believe were taken away during the pandemic, another convoy of truckers and supporters hit roadways on the north route of New Jersey, another demonstration in the series of protests. 

There is speculation that the New Jersey convoy had eyed Washington, D.C., as its final destination. According to the New Jersey Convoy website, participants that continue traveling south will do so "at their own discretion.”

In his State of the Union speech last week, President Joe Biden signaled that the country was entering a new, phase of the pandemic without business lockdowns, school closures, or other daily disruptions.

Analysts say the protesters who have come out despite the easing of Covid restrictions indicate that the demonstrations are frustrated with other domestic problems the American administration has failed to address. 

It remains unclear whether the convoys intend to drive into downtown Washington. According to the organizers, the plan, for now, is to stay on the Beltway, then head to Hagerstown, a city in Washington County, Maryland. 

one participant who described himself as the lead trucker told a cheering crowd he would drive his truck into the heart of the American capital saying "D.C., the government, whomever, can claim that they have all this opposition for us waiting in D.C.," the man said. "But that flag on the back of my truck will go down to Constitution Avenue between the White House and the Washington Monument." 

According to one U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss domestic operations, for weeks now, U.S. federal law enforcement agencies have been making plans in coordination with state and local authorities in preparation for the possible arrival of the convoy. 

In the last week of February, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security bulletin sent to security forces, which was reviewed by some media outlets said trucker convoys could hinder emergency responders depending on the size of the protest.

One of the organizers told the protesters "we are not going to go away. We are going to take a stand. We are going to attempt to do it diplomatically, through hopefully bipartisan meetings with some of these legislators with some of you in the meeting. Most likely they’re going to just lie to us. But that’s why we don’t go anywhere until they actually start to do something.”

Analysts say the similar remarks made by the organizers of other convoy movements highlight the lack of trust between the American public and the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.

There are different convoys that are planning to converge at their destination point in Washington together. Christopher Rodriguez, director of the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said one convoy had signaled that it was planning to stay outside the city. If the protesters did enter Washington, the authorities would be ready for them, he said.

The copycat protests have also spread to Europe and beyond, in France for example, after weeks of online organizing and despite warnings to stay away, French convoys rolled into the French capital Paris, disrupting traffic on parts of the Champs-Elysees despite the deployment of more than 7,000 police officers. 

French police blocked roads and used tear gas to disperse crowds, scenes that were quickly shared across social media platforms.

Protesters across Italy took to the streets to showcase dissent to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and green pass. Against, Inspired by the truckers' protest in Canada, protestors in Rome said the applicability of the mandate was leading to discrimination.

Similar rallies inspired by the Canadian truckers have been held in New Zealand and Australia which gained momentum as demonstrators blocked roads and disrupted traffic in their capitals.

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