Truckers and protesters gather in Lebanon to protest COVID-19 measures
The protesters were part of the “The People’s Convoy,” a national group of truckers and supporters arriving in Washington D.C. in the coming days to protest mask and vaccine mandates.
On Wednesday morning, a convoy of pickup trucks, fuel trucks and a logging truck gathered in Lebanon to protest COVID-19 restrictions, among other causes — American, Canadian and Gadsden flags in tow. The convoy is part of the American “People’s Convoy” heading toward Washington D.C., modeled after the mid-January “Freedom Convoy 2022” protest against vaccine mandates in Canada.
About 50 locals from Vermont and New Hampshire gathered behind The Fort restaurant in Lebanon to collect money as well as various donated items, such as food and toilet paper, in support of the People’s Convoy. Drums, air horns and honks sounded throughout the protest, which ran from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Both Canada and the U.S. require truckers to be fully vaccinated to cross the border.
Truckers from around the United States are expected to arrive in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, March 5. According to a Facebook group called “People’s Convoy VT,” the Northeastern route will trace the State of Vermont Northeast Route, or Interstate 91.
Protest attendees aired various concerns ranging from what they described as a lack of medical freedom and alleged Constitutional violations. Jude Pizar of South Walden, Vt. said she hoped to send a message with her participation in the convoy.
“My message is to the government –– that they need to quit stepping on us. They’re stepping on the Constitution,” Pizar said. “They’re taking away our rights.”
A Feb. 20 press statement announcing the People’s Convoy emphasized the “rough road” of the COVID-19 pandemic, and highlighted the advent of vaccines and “workable therapeutic agents” as indicators that pandemic measures should be relaxed. Making an economic argument, the press release explained that the American worker needs to pay rent and “jumpstart the economy,” which requires the lifting of mandates and “ending the state of emergency” related to COVID-19.
An attendee who identified herself only as “Barb” said that she attended to support freedom of the press and “health choice.”
“Our media needs to be held responsible for misinformation and blocking the alternative view,” Barb said. She added that after contracting COVID-19, her husband was put in a designated unit where he “was belittled because he was not vaccinated.”
Rosemary Lewando, a 35-year-old Vermont resident and “supporter of organic agriculture and local government,” said that her concerns about getting vaccinated stem from what she called the pharmaceutical industry’s “capture” of public health agencies.
“I was an avid Bernie supporter,” Lewando said. “I volunteered because I could see that it was necessary to be wary of the pharmaceutical industry.”
Lewando added that her family has sought out “like-minded people,” becoming friends with those from “across the aisle” who share her views on COVID-19 related health mandates. She said that “money, power and greed,” as well as government “disrespect,” have taken a toll on Americans.
“It’s nice seeing the patriotism,” Lewando said. “I’ve always been a skeptic, but it’s good to stand for something like peace and unity.”
She also expressed her concerns regarding COVID-19-related health mandates.
“There’s no science behind having a vaccine mandate, because it doesn’t stop transmission,” Lewando said. “We got COVID from our daughter, who is vaccinated.”
According to a brief on COVID-19 vaccinations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the COVID-19 vaccine is “highly effective” in preventing serious hospitalization and death from COVID-19. It also cites research showing that the vaccines’ effectiveness against infection is lower, but that fully vaccinated people are still less likely to contract COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.
Scott Allen, a carpenter from Bellows Falls, Vt., said that he found out about the convoy on Facebook. Allen, who described himself as a “small government guy,” said he supported the truckers as “independent-minded people.”
“A lot of truckers have already had COVID — they were probably the first to get it because they’re moving from state to state all the time, so they have natural immunity,” Allen said. “I think it’s ridiculous to mandate that they have to take a medical procedure that they don’t want.”
Allen added that he wanted all mandates “gone,” including those that require children to wear masks in schools. Allen described various government mandates as “antithetical to the American project.”
Captain Timothy Cohen of the Lebanon Police Department said that law enforcement’s response was “business as usual.”
“We’ve really planned no direct involvement unless there’s a traffic issue,” Cohen said. “If a traffic issue does arise, we would respond and help just like we would help anyone else with a traffic issue.”
At the protest’s end, the truckers and other supporters in cars drove away from the gathering site at Heater Road to begin their route to the nation’s capital.