North Stonington – A random sample of truckers refueling their rigs at the Pilot truck stop here on Thursday afternoon found them largely unfamiliar with plans for the “people’s convoy”, the week’s cross-country protest next against COVID-19 mandates.
But for one man, they supported the idea that the government has no right to order vaccinations.
This is the position of the thousands of truckers who took part in the “Freedom Convoy” that brought Ottawa, Canada’s capital, to a standstill, eventually forcing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to invoke emergency powers that allowed him to ban protests. Trudeau had sparked the unrest by requiring all truck drivers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or quarantined for 14 days before entering Canada.
If the American truckers manage to organize a similar demonstration, Josue Echeverria is in the game.
“One hundred percent,” Echeverria said after pulling into the Interstate 95 Exit 93 truck stop. “As a business owner, if something gets organized and I can do it, I will participate – as long as everything is peaceful.”
Echeverria said he owned Aly Transport of Kissimmee, Florida, and owned four trucks carrying cargo. He said he and all his drivers were vaccinated.
“It’s a personal choice,” he said. “What they were protesting against in Canada is over-regulation.”
Echeverria joked he would protest diesel fuel prices just as soon — $4.39 a gallon Thursday at Pilot, which he said had risen 35 cents in two weeks.
The people’s convoy, which was due to leave California on Wednesday, could demonstrate in Washington, DC on March 1, the date scheduled for President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address. Participation in the convoy is being sought among truckers across the United States, including Connecticut, largely through social media.
On a convoy website, organizers request that the President’s national emergency declaration regarding the COVID-19 pandemic be immediately rescinded.
Manchester’s David Lewis, who was driving a car transporter on Thursday, said he had not heard details of the convoy and was unlikely to participate.
“I listen to music while driving and I have two children and a wife at home. I don’t watch a lot of news except the weather,” he said. “As for forcing an individual to get vaccinated, I disagree.”
Lewis said he believes a company should be able to force its employees to get vaccinated. He said he and his family were vaccinated because “people smarter than me” recommended they do so.
Marq Burnett, who drives for a trucking company in the Philadelphia area, said he heard about the convoy on social media and could participate “if I can make it happen.”
A self-proclaimed ‘free thinker’, Burnett said he was unvaccinated and had driven throughout the pandemic without any problems, adding: ‘People should have the right to decide for themselves’ .
What if his employer imposed vaccinations?
“I would have to find another job,” he says.
Fredrick Martin, a freelance trucker from New York, said he would be willing to join the convoy.
“It depends if I have time,” he said. “I have to take care of my family.”
“We have to stick to the freedoms this country was built on,” Martin said, saying vaccination is a personal choice. “It’s a slippery slope. If we allow the government to do this (force vaccinations), what will they want us to do next? »
Convoy organizers in Connecticut are collecting donations of non-perishable food, water, blankets, fuel and other items at half a dozen locations across the state from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, according to a Facebook post. One of the locations is the suburban lot at I-95 and Route 161 (exit 74) in East Lyme.