Hundreds of semi-trucks, cars and other vehicles were expected to depart Spokane on Wednesday morning with the drivers’ sights set on the nation’s capital to protest COVID-19 restrictions.
The Freedom Convoy was organized to “bring back our freedoms, our civil liberties, and bring an end to all unconstitutional mandates,” according to convoy4freedom2022.com.
The convoy participants and supporters gathered Tuesday night just off the I-90 Medical Lake exit between Spokane and Medical Lake. Many held American flags, “Don’t tread on me” Gadsden flags and signs that called for freedom.
Terry Haas, a construction worker from Spokane, held an American flag on West Aero Road as vehicles passed by. He said he will travel in his pickup truck with the convoy and hopes to reach the Midwest before returning home.
He said he’s fed up with the vaccine and mask mandates, and the way politicians are handling other issues. Haas said people should have more control in the decision-making process instead of Gov. Jay Inslee.
He said his daughter hasn’t been able to get a job because of the vaccine mandate.
“I’m tired of it,” Haas said.
Bridget Lewis, who said she is a Kootenai Health nurse, also came out to support the cause Tuesday night, but she won’t be part of the convoy.
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“I’m totally against the vaccine,” Lewis said. “I think it’s horrible that they’re forcing it on all of us and I appreciate the truckers to trying to help us stop the mandate, honestly.”
Like Lewis, Heather Smeton, a business owner in Nine Mile Falls, cheered in support Tuesday night but also said she won’t be able to drive with the truckers and other drivers.
“I think we need the powers that be to hear that we want our freedoms back, that we feel they’re being stripped away,” Smeton said.
“I feel like I have less choices today than I did, say, five years ago,” she added.
Although Washington’s indoor mask requirement will be lifted March 12, Michaela Withers, lead coordinator of the event, said she is worried another COVID-19 variant could pop up and the mask mandate will return, bringing with it more booster shots that will be required.
“We want to make sure that we have a voice in this and trying to keep our freedoms,” she said.
Erin Kranz, another event organizer, said local leaders, like city and county officials and school board members, should make mask decisions – not the state.
The convoy, which organizers said will include several hundred vehicles, will depart at 8:30 a.m. from near the Petro Travel Center off I-90 between Spokane and Medical Lake. The convoy is scheduled to stop Wednesday night in Billings; Thursday night in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Friday night in Portage, Wisconsin; Saturday night in Spiceland, Indiana; and then arrive at the nation’s capital Sunday, according to the website.
Withers said the drivers plan to meet with members of Congress once in Washington, D.C.