(WASHINGTON) — Trucker protesters against COVID vaccine mandates and restrictions met Tuesday with a pair of Republican lawmakers for two hours on Capitol Hill.
Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Ted Cruz of Texas spoke with a small group of protesters from “The People’s Convoy,” who said they won’t end their now three-day long circuit along the D.C. beltway — traveling around 55-60 miles per hour along the often congested corridors of Maryland and Virginia — until they sit down with other members of Congress and their demands for the rollbacks of a national state of emergency and vaccine mandates are met.
Convoy truckers are also asking for congressional hearings on the origins of the pandemic along with an investigation into state and federal COVID responses.
“We’re gonna keep looping the beltway until heard,” said convoy organizer Brian Brase. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re not gonna leave. We’re gonna keep doing what we’re doing until we start getting more meetings like we just had today.”
Most COVID restrictions have been lifted across the country, with Washington D.C. last week eliminating vaccine and mask mandates in the city. New York City on Monday dropped its mask and vaccine requirements.
Still, the convoy, attempting to emulate the trucker convoy that shut down a major bridge in Ontario, Canada, has been traveling cross-country from California since late February.
“‘The People’s Convoy’ continues that legacy,” said Cruz, who is fully vaccinated. “They want government to leave them the hell alone.”
One point of contention for protestors who spoke during a roundtable discussion is that while COVID mandates are being rolled back, health care workers and members of the military have already been dismissed and discharged for refusing to get vaccinated.
“This is how it’s affecting our communities, our loved ones back home and we’re on the road working,” Brase said.
The convoy aimed to reach the nation’s capital last week. After adding participants and gaining national attention, it stopped 70 miles outside the city at the Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told ABC News that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved requests from Capitol Police and Homeland Security to extend National Guard support at traffic control points in D.C. through Wednesday.
“These are people that are fighting for freedom. It’s just that simple,” Johnson said. “We’ve already seen tears here. I didn’t expect that, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
Later on Tuesday, Florida Republican Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, along with Thomas Massie, R-Ky., hosted an invitation-only discussion with a separate group of around 100 truckers.
“The People’s Convoy” also met with Republican lawmakers for an additional roundtable discussion with Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., and a handful of other members of the House Transportation Committee.
“I’ve cried multiple times through this journey. I lost my son in September and I’m still a part of this because that’s how much I believe in this, even though I didn’t want to get out of bed,” Brase said through tears.
Graves replied: “You are making a difference.”
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