By RICK GENTILO
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of truckers and other motorists who have been doing rolling protests on highways encircling Washington made their way into the nation’s capital Monday, snarling already-congested traffic in a demonstration against COVID-19 mandates and other grievances.
The DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency issued a traffic advisory shortly before 2 p.m. that suggested motorists delay travel or use alternative transportation “due to ongoing demonstration activity on I-395, I-695, and I-295.”
The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department closed a number of streets and exits off the highways to prevent the protesters from coming into the city. “These rolling road closures are occurring in real-time as they are needed,” the announcement said.
The protesters, separated intermittently by the usual congested traffic, waved flags and blew their horns as they drove. When asked why they had come to protest, one unidentified couple with Montana license plates answered “freedom.”
Area residents took to the police department’s Twitter with a number of the comments holding city officials and the police responsible for the traffic gridlock by shutting down the exits.
Authorities sent out a second advisory about two-and-a-half hours later announcing the demonstration had ended and the freeway exits were being reopened.
The truckers, some from as far away as California and Montana, have been in the area more than a week driving from Hagerstown, Maryland, to the beltway surrounding Washington to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates as well as voice frustration for other grievances.
Last week, organizers of the group met with Republican Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. Cruz joined them for a ride as they circled the Washington area.