A group of truckers and others opposed to pandemic-related mandates looped the Capital Beltway for a fourth day Thursday, this time with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who rode shotgun in the lead truck.
“These policies are cruel and they are immoral and I think it is time to end them all and let people live their lives,” Cruz said outside the Capitol while the rest of the convoy circled the Beltway.
Though many pandemic-related restrictions at the federal and local levels have been blocked or rescinded, convoy organizers have rallied supporters by calling mandates an infringement on their freedoms.
“There ain’t no ignoring a senator riding in the lead truck,” Brian Brase, the group’s organizer, told the crowd at the Hagerstown Speedway. “That’s basically an endorsement of what we’re doing.”
Cruz rode in a truck that led hundreds of vehicles, passing sporadic supporters waving flags and signs. In Washington, Cruz hopped out at the Peace Monument on the west side of the Capitol as dozens of cameras crowded around.
“I’m proud to listen to these guys, to hear their passion, hear why they’re here, why they’re fighting, and I’m proud to stand with them,” Cruz said.
Cruz criticized the government’s response to the pandemic and urged the “People’s Convoy” to continue its work. Standing next to Cruz, Brase called on more truckers to join the protest.
“Doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you lean on, this is for everyone. This is for your personal freedoms,” Brase said.
Law enforcement authorities in Virginia and Maryland said there have been no major incidents from the convoy’s circling of the Beltway other than some minor congestion. Maryland State Police said one pickup driver was issued a warning Thursday for impeding the flow of traffic on southbound Interstate 270 in Montgomery County.
Brase had urged the convoy to continue the ride around the Beltway as those with Cruz rode to the nation’s capital. Brase said the convoy will continue to protest until mandates for health workers, federal employees and military personnel are eliminated, but he warned the convoy against heading into Washington.
“If you deviate from the plan, meaning you decide to break rank and bring your happy butts down to D.C. proper … you are not representing the ‘People’s Convoy’ in doing that,” he said. “Do not do that. Stick to the plan … It’s working. They’re coming here now.”
A trucker who goes by Sasnak and has a popular live stream — who also rode behind Cruz on Thursday — streamed the lap around the Beltway, saying demonstrators were encountering middle finger gestures from those who oppose their campaign.
“We go around the Beltway, birds are flying. Birds are flying everywhere. That’s the kind of people that live up there,” Sasnak said in a stream that had as many as 10,000 viewers. “It is a different world over in D.C. It’s a different world.”
The convoy also found supporters, some waving signs and American flags from overhead bridges. Some cars pulled over, honking and waving in support.
The convoy of big rigs, RVs and pickups began circling the Beltway on Sunday, repeating the demonstration on Monday and Tuesday. The group rested Wednesday because of rainy weather and concerns about road safety. Thursday was the fourth day of protest on the Beltway.
Brase and other convoy leaders met with Cruz and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Tuesday in the Capitol to discuss their demands and grievances. While no direct action came from the meeting, Brase said he saw it as a step in the right direction.
Convoy leadership also met on Tuesday afternoon with some Republican members of the House Transportation Committee to discuss their shared concerns over pandemic-related mandates. Along with ending federal mandates, convoy members are calling for an end to the national emergency declaration that was first issued by President Donald Trump in March 2020 and later extended by President Biden.
The group’s leaders have also called for Congress to hold hearings investigating the government’s response to the pandemic, and urged people around the country to start organizing in their state capitals.
The group arrived in Hagerstown on Friday with some of its members coming from Adelanto, Calif. Its members have set up at the Hagerstown Speedway, more than an hour outside Washington.
Jasmine Hilton and Paul Duggan contributed to this report.