‘People’s convoy’ crosses Westmoreland County en route to DC truck rally

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Hundreds of people converged Friday afternoon along Interstate 70 in New Stanton and on the eastbound ramps on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to cheer on a large convoy of truckers heading toward Washington, D.C., for a weekend rally to protest covid-19 restrictions – which have been eased or largely eliminated in recent days and weeks.

As the convoy rolled along the highway on Friday, many stood along the road waving flags and cheering the truckers and convoy vehicles, while others parked pickup trucks in grassy areas at side of the highway and at the edge of the toll ramp. A group cheered the procession, which lasted more than an hour, from the Central Avenue Bridge over I-70.

Among those cheering the truckers on, blowing their horns in a breathtaking cresendo, were two FedEx Corops. delivery drivers who work at the New Stanton plant.

“We support this movement to get government out of everyone’s lives,” said Acme’s Melanie Nelson, who was joined in cheering and waving an American flag by fellow FedEx driver Darcie Mensch of Youngwood. These drivers are tired of the government telling them they need to take health precautions, like masks or vaccinations, Nelson said.

“I’m here to support their freedoms,” Mensch said.

Giving truckers the freedom to decide whether they want to comply with government mandates put in place in an effort to curb the covid pandemic, was a recurring theme for some of those lining the highway. Most along the route were waving American flags. Among those in vehicles that accompanied the truckers, some had banners supporting Trump and others with derisive and sometimes derogatory phrases expressing hatred of President Biden.

West Newton’s Becky Musgrove said her reason for supporting Truckers was to show her support for her own family.

“My family has truckers and they had to pay for their own diesel fuel, which takes a lot of their paycheck,” Musgrove said.

“Without truckers, our country would go crazy” as prices would rise due to transportation costs, Musgrove said.

Hunker’s Renita Watkiss gave the protest a political spin, saying the country is in such turmoil largely because of who is in the White House.

“We need him (Trump) back so badly,” Watkiss said, standing next to a silhouette of Trump with the phrase Miss Me Yet.

David Richardson and Kelley Sullivan of Youngwood see her trucker support as a necessity for her and her children.

“We are fighting for our rights in America,” Sullivan said.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Turnpike officials warned that motorists could experience delays as the convoy heads into Washington DC.

Hundreds of trucks and other vehicles, traveling across the country as The People’s Convoy, traveled to the nation’s capital to demand an end to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Part of the group kicked off in California on February 23. A second convoy left more recently from the northeast.

Friday’s leg for the California group took them from Cambridge, Ohio, to Hagerstown, Maryland, via the Pennsylvania Turnpike from New Stanton to Breezewood, according to The People’s Convoy website.

The convoys were organized online and inspired by recent protests by Canadian truckers who closed border crossings between the United States and Canada, according to the Associated Press.

The convoy passed through the area about two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines saying most people could stop wearing masks due to the pandemic.

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden said it was time for America to stop letting the coronavirus “dictate the way we live,” outlining a strategy to get people back to many normal activities safely after two years of pandemic disruption.

One of the highlights of the Biden administration’s plan in this regard is a new “test to treat” plan to provide free antiviral pills at pharmacies to people who test positive for the virus.

The plan follows Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, in which he highlighted progress against the pandemic since last year, with a dramatic reduction in cases, vaccines and tests readily available. , and new therapies soon becoming more accessible.

“Tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines. It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” Biden said during the State of the Union address.

Truck drivers at the Smithton stop on I-70 a month ago predicted a US replication of efforts by Canadian truckers who were targeting coronavirus vaccine mandates.

The people’s convoy is scheduled to arrive in the Washington, DC area on Saturday. The group described themselves in a press release as a “peaceful and law-abiding transcontinental journey to the East Coast”.

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