Washington – Convoy groups led by American hauliers are on their way to the country’s capital to demand an end to all COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
Protesters, with members from at least three individual convoy groups, are expected to arrive in Washington, DC over the coming weekend.
The convoys follow the lead of Canadian protesters, who in late January spent three weeks demonstrating against COVID-19 mandates that paralyzed three U.S. border crossings and downtown Ottawa.
Canadian police arrested more than 100 people when the so-called “Freedom Convoy” became violent after truck drivers blocked roads and annoyed residents with pounding horns.
Other “Freedom Convoys” in Europe, including groups in France and Belgium, resulted in protesters blocking traffic and police responding with tear gas and arrests.
With COVID-19 mandates already falling around the country in line with declining infection rates, protesters are still popping up with demands.
Here’s what you need to know about them:
Who participates in the convoy groups?
There are several groups from across the country participating in the protest, with a few primary convoys including the “People’s Convoy,” which has traveled across the country from California and is expected to arrive on Saturday.
The group, which has nearly 300,000 Facebook followers, will include hauliers as well as others such as doctors, teachers and pilots.
Another group, which called itself the “American Freedom Convoy” and includes members mostly from the Midwest, is also on its way to Washington, DC, but is lagging behind and arriving around March 7th.
It is unclear how many people or trucks will join the convoys.
What do the protesters want?
There is one common requirement that comes from the participating convoys: Terminate COVID-19 mandates, including mask and vaccine requirements.
“The average American worker needs to be able to cope with the economic hardships of the last two years and get back into the business of making bread,” People’s Convoy’s said in a news release.
“To that end, it is time for elected officials to work with workers and officials in America and restore accountability and freedom by abolishing all mandates and ending the state of emergency – as COVID is well in hand now and Americans must return to work on a free and unlimited way. “
Organizers told CNN that the protest will be tame and “legal,” and the group has no plans to emulate Canada with roadblocks, clashes or other disruptions.
“The People’s Convoy will abide by agreements with local authorities and exit near the DC area, but will not actually enter DC,” the group said.
The People’s Convoy said they are distancing themselves from other groups who may have other, less peaceful plans.
The participating convoy “American Freedom Convoy” told CNN that they do not intend to be violent, but insinuated that it could happen if law enforcement “sends troops to prevent the protests.”
Law enforcement officials are preparing for possible disruption
Virginia State Police issued a traffic alert to Virginia over the weekend, warning drivers to prepare for “potential commercial vehicles and passenger vehicle convoys affecting traffic in and around the National Capital Region.”
“Virginia State Police respects the public’s rights to the First Amendment and has been in contact with organizers of various groups to ensure their understanding of Virginia’s traffic laws,” police said.
Maryland State Police are also monitoring the situation and plan to deploy additional troops to “counter any crime” and help relocate traffic.
“The agency will allocate personnel and additional resources based on analysis of the situation to ensure the safety of our roads and minimize potential traffic disruption throughout the region,” police said in a statement obtained by CNN-affiliated WJLA.
The DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency on Thursday sent out a message to local businesses and faith-based community partners, warning them of interruptions due to the protests.
“As a result, vehicle traffic may be affected and companies and other organizations may experience delays in incoming and outgoing deliveries as well as employee access during this time,” “Please be careful if you drive in affected areas and expect delays in reaching your destination. If possible, postpone the journey through these areas or consider using Metrorail. “
Police may close certain roads to “minimize the effects of these demonstrations” and will provide updates when they come.
The COVID-19 rules will be repealed as the number of cases decreases
As the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is slowly declining, cities and states are loosening the requirements for vaccine and mask.
COVID-19 hospital admissions are lower than they have been for most of the past year, with the United States now averaging 55,701 new COVID-19 cases a day, according to Johns Hopkins University, down 26% from last week and the lowest cases has been since late July.
There are currently 41,014 people hospitalized with COVID-19, a decrease of 23% from last week. Current admissions are now about a quarter of what they were at the top in mid-January and lower than they have been for most of the past year.
Due to the decline in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, mask mandates and vaccine passport rules have dropped around the country in recent days and weeks as local officials have changed their rules in line with declining COVID numbers.
Most recently in New York, the state has repealed most mask mandates and requirements to show evidence of vaccination for indoor activities.
A growing number of states – the majority with Democratic governors – have announced in recent weeks that they will repeal their indoor or school mask mandates, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.
According to the new CDC guidelines, more than 70% of the population is in a place with low or medium COVID-19 levels. In these areas, masking is not necessary unless a person is at “increased risk” for COVID-19, and if so, the CDC recommends that you talk to your healthcare provider about wearing a mask.
Even in certain counties with “high” levels of COVID-19, such as in states such as California, Illinois, Oregon and Washington, mask mandates are revoked.
According to updates to the CDC guidelines, people in counties with low or medium COVID-19 community levels no longer need to wear masks indoors unless they are immunocompromised or have a “high risk” of severe COVID-19, and if so, recommend CDC to talk to their health care provider about wearing a mask.