Downtown Sacramento’s soundscape had a new addition Monday afternoon: truck horns and loud chants from The People’s Convoy, a group modeled after Canadian truckers’ “freedom convoys” that protested against vaccine mandates.
The group is calling for the United States to lift the national emergency it declared when the COVID-19 pandemic began. They’re also demanding California kill a number of pandemic-related bills that were recently introduced.
Over 100 people, many carrying Thin Blue Line and yellow Gadsden flags, gathered at the west side of the Capitol building for the first of three demonstrations happening over the next three days.
William Owens Jr, a poet who performed at the rally, said he doesn’t expect rallygoers and members of The People’s Convoy to “all of a sudden be on the same page” politically or religiously.
“But we are expecting whatever happens to be to be established upon the Constitution,” he told CapRadio after his poem. “So when you see [the government]… passing bills that are absolutely contrary to life, the people must be a voice and confront these legislations.”
Some attendees, like John Barbee, had been traveling with the convoy for several weeks.
Barbee, a retired emergency room doctor from Tennessee, said he began searching 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 primarily about medical freedom. We're not anti-mask, we're not anti-vaccine, we're pro-choice. Personally, I've been vaccinated. I don't care if anyone else has been or hasn't been.”
The People's Convoy and their supporters gather at the West steps of the California State Capitol 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 should be forced to do something that they don’t want to do,” he said. “How many people do you think care, if they’re in a burning building, if their fireman is vaccinated or not when they come in to pull 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.
State health secretary Mark Ghaly said in February that the state’s approach acknowledged that “we are not out of the woods.”
“We are just more familiar with the woods and don’t need to look awfully afraid of what’s behind the next tree,” he said.
The event’s organizers also said they’re protesting “10 bad bills” that are passing through the legislature. One was withdrawn last week by state senator Dr. Richard Pan; his Senate Bill 871 would’ve required K-12 students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Other bills include Senate Bill 1390 and Senate Bill 2098, both meant to quell the spread of misinformation and disinformation about, but not limited to, vaccines and elections on social media platforms and in medical settings.
Clarification: We've updated this story to clarify people at the demonstration were carrying Thin Blue Line flags.
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