Police divert ‘People’s Convoy’ away from downtown D.C.

District authorities, warning of “demonstration activity” on area roads, said D.C. police had closed some exits “to keep traffic moving safely.” The drivers made their way back to the Beltway before getting on Interstate 395 headed again toward Washington. At about 2 p.m. the first group of vehicles rolled over the 14th Street Bridge on I-395, where police were blocking roads toward the Mall and elsewhere in the center of the city. Drivers then made their way back down I-295 toward the Beltway.

On Monday afternoon, hundreds of trucks, cars and SUVs that were part of the convoy converged with thousands of other motorists on I-395 and encountered severe backups. They had said earlier that they planned to take the same route on Tuesday.

“We’re going to continue to do that route every single morning at this point because obviously it scares the crap out of them,” convoy organizer Brian Brase said at the truckers’ Tuesday morning meeting.

Traffic was continuing to flow more smoothly early Tuesday afternoon, though area drivers were getting caught up in the blocked exits.

The convoy has been headquartered at the Hagerstown Speedway in Washington County, Md. The truckers and their supporters have been coming in on I-270 and making their way around the Capital Beltway for a week and a half. But they did not try to take to any of the roadways inside the Beltway until Monday.

The convoy on Monday entered the District via the 14th Street Bridge on I-395 amid a near-standstill, then continued to I-695 before crossing the Anacostia River and returning to the Beltway. Police blocked exits into downtown Washington, and highway traffic that already was heavy worsened with the convoy’s arrival.

Some of the convoy had traveled across the country to protest, beginning their journey on Feb. 23 in Adelanto, Calif., outside Los Angeles. Organizers and convoy members talked about Monday’s convoy as a “win,” saying it included 258 cars, 68 motor homes and 95 trucks. At a meeting Monday night, the group focused on police efforts to block exits on I-395 and how it emphasized the traffic backup.

“Since they didn’t want to seem to trust us on what we told them we were going to do, and they screwed everybody else’s life up today, we just might do what we want to do from now on,” convoy organizer Mike Landis said Monday night. “Way to create some traffic,” he told the protesters.

Convoy leaders say they want to hold lawmakers accountable for the government’s pandemic responses, voicing frustrations over vaccination requirements for health workers, federal employees and military personnel intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Although many pandemic-related restrictions at state and local levels have been blocked or rescinded, convoy organizers have rallied supporters by calling mandates an infringement on their freedoms.

A broader range of grievances has also brought people to the cause, evident in signs, flags and chants from drivers and supporters in Hagerstown. Some have expressed far-right beliefs and misinformation that equate mandates to slavery; falsely claim “Trump won,” referring to the 2020 presidential election; and repeat QAnon conspiracies.

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