Truckers’ Capital Beltway protest isn’t a hoax, organizers say

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Organizers of the “Truckers Ride for the Constitution” rally say they are indeed coming to Washington on Friday — but whether they will shut down the Beltway or just make a lot of noise remains to be seen.

Zeeda Andrews, one of the organizers of the event, said the ride is a go but emphasized that it will be peaceful. She said that Georgia trucker Earl Conlon “overstepped his boundaries” earlier this week in saying the event was just a ploy to get attention for the group’s agenda.

“Yes, it is happening,” she said about the rally. Andrews said she expects “a few thousand truckers” to descend on the District on Friday.

State police officials in the region said they will be prepared either way.

“Virginia State Police is aware of the proposed convoy of commercial vehicles and is preparing accordingly with the region’s law enforcement agencies and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), just as we have done in the past for similar demonstrations held within the National Capital Region,’’ said spokeswoman Corinne N. Geller in an e-mail statement.

Geller said additional troopers will be deployed Friday and through the weekend in case any incidents or problems tied to the rally occur. But as long as no one breaks the law, the truckers will be allowed to proceed with their activities — just as other groups have in the past. She said the additional staffing is to ensure that traffic continues to move safely through the region.

Sgt. Marc Black of the Maryland State Police said that the agency does not plan to add additional patrols, but that authorities will be watching the highways to ensure no traffic issues occur. Pennsylvania State Police will be doing the same, a spokesman said.

Andrews said truckers plan to meet in two spots Friday morning before convoying into Washington: at Exit 98 off Interstate 95 in Doswell, which is north of Richmond, and at Exit 77 off Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania. Beginning about rush hour, truckers will take shifts in circling the Beltway, driving at the speed limit — an action that might end up jamming the roadway, she said.

“It’s a minor inconvenience, but things could be a lot worse,” Andrews said.

Truckers and their supporters have been asked to post #T2SDA (Truckers to Shut Down America) on their vehicles to indicate their support. Even as the rally has picked up support with more than 136,000 Facebook likes and counting, industry groups have stepped forward to disavow the group’s action

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents small-business trucking professionals, said it does not support the group.

“The individuals leading this particular effort have no direct affiliation with trucking and appear to be using truckers in order to gain media attention and air other political grievances,” said Norita Taylor, who heads communications for the 150,000-member­ group, in a prepared statement. “We do not support assembling in an unlawful, unpermitted manner, committing crimes, making threats on our lawmakers, or behaving in such a way to cast safe, professional truck drivers in a negative light.”

Officials with the American Trucking Associations said their organization “is not a sponsor of this ‘strike’ nor do we endorse or condone the activities of these few individuals.”

The protest group’s agenda has evolved since the story began making the rounds of news outlets across the country early this week with a story in U.S. News & World Report, which said the truckers wanted members of Congress to be arrested while others called for the ouster of President Obama.

Andrews said the group still wants to get rid of Obama, but will do so by legal means. She said independent truckers also are upset about new regulations, including on idling and hours of service, that threaten to put them out of business.

 
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