Convoy of truckers arrives in Sacramento, protesting California’s COVID-19 bills

Sacramento’s downtown soundscape had a new addition on Monday afternoon: truck horns and loud chants from The People’s Convoy, a band inspired by the “freedom convoys” of Canadian truckers who protested the vaccination orders.

The group calls on the United States to lift the national emergency it declared at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also demanding that California remove a number of pandemic-related bills that were recently introduced.

More than 100 people, many carrying Blue Lives Matter and yellow Gadsden flags, gathered on the west side of the Capitol building for the first of three protests that will take place over the next three days.

William Owens Jr, a poet who performed at the rally, said he did not expect rally participants and members of the people’s convoy to “suddenly be on the same length of wave” politically or religiously.

“But we expect everything that happens to be established on the Constitution,” he told CapRadio after his poem. “So when you see [the government]… by adopting bills absolutely contrary to life, the people must make their voice heard and confront these legislations.

Some participants, like John Barbee, had been traveling with the convoy for several weeks.

Barbee, a retired emergency physician from Tennessee, said he started looking for something similar to the trucker protests in Canada when he found The People’s Convoy.

“I just thought it was time to get on with life,” he said of the pandemic. “The People’s Convoy is above all about medical freedom. We’re not anti-mask, we’re not anti-vaccine, we’re pro-choice. Personally, I have been vaccinated. I don’t care if anyone else was or wasn’t.

The popular convoy and their supporters gather on the west steps of the California State Capitol on Monday, April 18. 2022.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

Organizer Mike Landis, one of the first speakers at the rally, echoed Barbee’s statement.

“What matters is that no one is forced to do something they don’t want to do,” he said. “How many people do you think care if they’re in a burning building, if their firefighter is vaccinated or not when they come in to get them out?

California remains under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus. But the state has eliminated many of its pandemic-related health orders in recent weeks, including its indoor mask mandate on March 1. The state also ended its mask mandate for students and educators on March 12.

Many other changes are part of the state’s broader attempt to move away from mandates in favor of stockpiling resources to help with rapid response.

Secretary of State for Health Mark Ghaly said in February that the state’s approach recognized that “we are not off the hook”.

“We’re just more familiar with the woods and don’t need to look terribly scared of what’s behind the next tree,” he said.

Organizers of the event also said they were protesting “10 bad bills” passing through the legislature. One was retired last week by state senator Dr. Richard Pan; his Senate Bill 871 would have required K-12 students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Other bills include Senate Bill 1390 and Senate Bill 2098, both intended to suppress the spread of misinformation and disinformation about, but not limited to, vaccines and elections on social media platforms and in medical circles.

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