A number of Oklahomans took to the highways on Sunday to show their support for truckers participating in the “people’s convoy” heading to Washington to protest mask mandates and other pandemic-related rules.
Convoy truckers traveling along Interstates 40 and 44 encountered supporters at several locations waving American flags. Some turned out along road overpasses; others took their places with flags and signs along highways. Live streams posted on social media captured truckers honking their horns as they passed by.
Truckers drove east on I-40 through the Oklahoma City metro area, then northeast on I-44 on a path to Vinita. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol said troopers are monitoring the route to ensure public safety and disrupt normal traffic flow as little as possible.
According to a mission statement posted on Facebook, the convoy “aims to bring back our freedoms, our civil liberties and to end all unconstitutional mandates.”
The convoy was launched on February 23 in southern California with the intention of proceeding to Washington. Some truckers were planning to get there in time for Tuesday’s State of the Union address by President Joe Biden.
Statements on the group’s website called for the lifting of all COVID-19 warrants in the United States.
“The past 23 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a difficult road for all Americans to travel: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and — most importantly — financially,” a press release read. “With the advent of the vaccine and usable therapeutic agents, as well as the hard work of so many sectors that have contributed to the decline in COVID-19 cases and the severity of the disease, now is the time to reopen the country. .”
A national state of emergency was declared by former President Donald Trump in March 2020. Biden said he would extend it beyond March 1.
The convoy was inspired by a similar group ‘Freedom Convoy’ which shut down parts of the Canadian capital of Ottawa in January.
Earlier this month, when protests in Canada swelled enough to block major border highways, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a national emergency. According to Associated Press accounts, police arrested dozens of protesters.
Several American convoys were then organized online, the AP reported.
In Washington, the Pentagon has approved the deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to help control traffic during protests expected in the coming days.
The protest comes as average daily COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to decline in the United States, an indicator that the omicron variant’s grip is weakening across the country and mandates are being eased or lifted.
Public health experts said they were hopeful more declines were to come.