News & Politics

The “People’s Convoy” Trucker Caravan Is Approaching Washington

The intentions of organizers and number of protesters remain vague. Here's what we know.

Trucks near the National Mall during a pro-January 6-prisoner rally in September 2021. Photograph by Andrew Beaujon.

The “People’s Convoy,” a trucker-centered caravan protest that crossed the US, has begun to arrive in Hagerstown, Maryland, about 70 miles northwest of DC. Convoy organizers have consistently said they have no plans to enter the District, though NBC News reports that one organizer said Friday, “I can tell you now that there will be select trucks going to the White House.” The Washington Post reports the convoy now plans to spend two days rallying at the Hagerstown Speedway and that organizers are considering next steps, including a gathering Saturday at a location “only two miles from the Beltway.”

There are several convoys, inspired by protests in Canada that paralyzed Ottawa and traffic on the Ambassador Bridge between Michigan and Ontario earlier this year, purportedly on their way to DC. Some have flamed out, and a rally to support the protests on the National Mall was a notable failure. The People’s Convoy has been one of the biggest caravans, though the number of vehicles involved remains unclear. The Post reports estimates from law enforcement sources in Indiana and Ohio that about 550 vehicles overall, of which about 160 are big rigs and the rest four-wheelers, are on their way to Hagerstown.

Some right-wing media sources are taking a more expansive view of their numbers: Conspiracy site the Gateway Pundit, for instance, estimates the People’s Convoy comprises more than 10,000 vehicles and is more than 70 miles long. (A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation told the Post it was probably more like one mile long.)

South of Washington, the Dominion Raceway near Fredericksburg is the site of a rally for other convoys on March 6 and 7. “The speedway can hold 10,000 and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is completely full,” says Erica Knight, a spokesperson for the American Trucker’s Freedom Fund, which has organized this event. Convoy leaders, Knight says, will meet with a “Congressional Welcoming Committee” in DC on Monday. (A person who answered the phone at the Raceway says that while a gathering is indeed planned there on March 6 and 7, no one is yet on site.)

The Virginia State Police say they’re monitoring and preparing for any convoys that may materialize. The Maryland State Police are likewise monitoring and working with agencies in Virginia and the District, says spokesperson Elena Russo, who also tells Washingtonian she cannot “confidently provide a number of vehicles in the convoys.” In a statement, Russo says people should be aware of “the potential for misinformation and disinformation that could be spread on social media in regards to potential protests.”

Trucks are already prohibited on many streets around the National Mall, the US Capitol, and the White House. Fencing around the Capitol that went up in advance of Tuesday’s State of the Union address is now down. A spokesperson for the US Capitol Police declined to discuss security measures but tells Washingtonian the agency has been “working closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners on a plan in the event vehicle convoys reach the Washington, DC area.” Dustin Sternbeck, a spokesperson for the DC police, tells Washingtonian, “This is a fluid situation, and we continue to monitor in collaboration with our local and federal partners.” Metro “continues to have some buses on standby in partnership with our federal, state and local partners to provide resources for any potential law enforcement strategic response measures,” says WMATA spokesperson Sherri Ly.

There’s very little good information about the makeup or intentions of the convoys. While organizers originally opposed vaccine mandates and other Covid-prevention measures, those messages have become muddled as precautions have loosened around the country. The District, for instance, dropped its vaccine requirement on February 15 and its indoor mask mandate expired on Monday. Anti-government grievances and “pro-freedom” sentiment are prevalent in online chats about the convoys, and in several forums there’s also a lot of discussion of conspiracy theories and far-right and culture-war talking points. The People’s Convoy now focuses on the President’s ability to declare a state of emergency, a somewhat obscure argument that the US Senate nonetheless took up Thursday.

 

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.