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Hundreds of people lined Interstate 44 — truck stop to truck stop — on Monday to show their support for the popular mile-long convoy of truckers and others in the trailer.

The popular convoy is one of many planned to follow the recent demonstration by Canadian truckers, who closed the busiest US-Canada border crossing and besieged the streets of the capital, Ottawa, for weeks in protest against government pandemic restrictions. A statement on the People’s Convoy website pays tribute to “our brave and courageous neighbors to the north, our Canadian brothers and sisters who led the charge.”

The convoy spent the night in Vinita, Oklahoma, and passed through Joplin by mid-morning before planning to stop Monday night in Sullivan. The convoy, which billed itself as a “peaceful and unified transcontinental movement,” began Feb. 23 in California and is scheduled to arrive in Washington, DC, on Saturday, according to its schedule.

“The last 23 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a difficult road for all Americans to navigate: spiritually, emotionally, physically and — most importantly — financially,” convoy organizers said in a statement. “With the advent of the vaccine and usable therapeutic agents, and the hard work of so many sectors that have contributed to the decline in COVID-19 cases and the severity of the disease, now is the time to reopen the country. .

“The average American worker needs to be able to weather the economic woes of the past two years and get back to baking bread – so they can pay their rents and mortgages and help kick-start this economy. To that end, it’s time for elected officials to work with America’s blue collar and white collar workers and restore accountability and freedom – lifting all mandates and ending the state of emergency – because COVID is well in hand now, and Americans need to get back to work freely and without restriction.”

US convoys are seeking to immediately lift what they say are tough government pandemic restrictions, such as mask mandates and vaccine requirements. The American Truckers Freedom Fund website says the group is protesting “the unscientific and unconstitutional excess of the federal government.”

People’s Convoy organizer Mike Landis, in video testimony on the group’s website, said the current COVID-19 vaccine “is not yet proven” but supported individual choice whether or not to take it.

Vaccines have been shown to be very effective in preventing COVID-19 infections, especially serious illness and death, and high-quality masks provide strong protection against spreading or contracting the disease. Public opinion, especially among conservatives, has shifted against government mandates as the pandemic enters its third year.

A pandemic-induced national state of emergency was declared by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 and later extended by President Joe Biden. It was originally scheduled to expire on Tuesday.

In a letter to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives sent on February 18, Biden said: “There remains a need to continue this national emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a significant risk to public health and the safety of the More than 900,000 people in this country have perished from the disease, and it is essential that we continue to fight and respond to COVID-19 with the full capacity and capacity of the federal government.

It remains to be seen whether any of the American convoys would actively seek to close the streets of Washington, as their Canadian counterparts did in Ottawa. Some convoy organizers have spoken of plans to briefly cross the city and then focus on closing the ring road, which encircles the capital.

The right to assemble

Crowds gathered Monday along the highway and at overpasses in the Joplin area to show their support for the convoy.

“I wanted to see it, I heard a lot about it,” said Jeff Osborne of Webb City, one of more than 100 who gathered at the Range Line exit along I-44. “I want people to stay out of my life. I think that’s how it should be.”

Many truckers and other people in the trailer honked as they passed. Many in the crowd gave a thumbs up and waved banners and flags: American flags, Donald Trump flags, Gadsden (“Don’t Tread On Me”) flags.

“I just want to show my support,” said Cody Thomas, of Riverton, Kansas. “We can’t all be out there doing this for everyone. I’m happy to support those who can.”

Some in the crowd said they wanted an end to masked mandates; others said they favored local control, leaving the companies to decide.

Sarah Trewyn had a sign that said, “Thank you.” She said she came “to celebrate the right to assemble”.

“Absolutely,” she replied when asked if she agreed with the mission of the convoy. “If you want to mask up and vaccinate, that should be your choice.”

Colby Mosher, of Bella Vista, Arkansas, waved an “Appeal to Heaven” flag, also known as the “Pine Tree” flag because of the green pine tree, which has its roots in the American Revolution. He came, he said, “just to support personal freedom… just to defend individual rights.”

support freedom

The Connecticut Avenue bridge over I-44 was packed with 70 to 80 people who waved at drivers below, held up “Thank you truckers” signs and waved American or Trump flags. Many vehicles in the convoy carried their own American flags and honked their horns to cheers from supporters.

Brittany Isaacs, from Joplin, followed the people’s convoy on social media and arrived at the overpass at 9 a.m. She said the cause was not just about ending mask mandates, but about overreaching the government in general.

She referenced truckers whose bank accounts were frozen in Canada, a move the government says was aimed at pressuring protesters off the streets; it was halted by Canadian authorities about a week ago.

“People think it’s just about the mask mandates, but it’s not,” Isaacs said. “This is government overkill and tyranny.”

Isaacs described the energy of the crowd on the Connecticut Avenue Bridge as electric and unifying, except for a few drivers who showed their disapproval.

“I think it’s absolutely amazing how many patriotic people we have,” she said. “There were people on Facebook this morning saying they were taking their kids out of school today so they could participate in standing up for what we believe in. We got freaked out a few times, which is kind of sad. But I came here on my own and stayed in the cold because that’s how much I believe in this.

Curtis Kimbrough of Joplin brought a large American flag and tied it to the chain-link fence across the bridge.

“I want truckers to know they’re supported,” he said. “I’ve followed their journey and kept an eye on what’s going on. I’m worried about what’s happening in Canada, and I think we should close the Canadian border until they straighten it.

Kathy Clayton of Saginaw said she would like to be in the nation’s capital when the convoy is expected to arrive, and she supports the mission to protect people from too much government control.

“I think they’re going to Washington with a purpose and saying, ‘No more with what you’re doing. We are a free country,” she said. “The government is too big, and they are supposed to represent us, not dictate us. We appreciate the truckers who stand up for us.