— A convoy of truck drivers and supporters rallied in Mebane on Friday then drove toward Raleigh in protest of COVID-19 pandemic mandates.

WRAL’s Bryan Mims followed the convoy of about 50 people. Most were in cars or pick-up trucks, and only one tractor trailer appeared to be participating, he said.

The group gathered with flags and signs at a Petro station along Interstate 85 in Mebane, about 40 minutes west of Raleigh, around 8:30 a.m. By noon, the convoy was following Interstate 40 into the heart of downtown Raleigh.

The convoy was originally scheduled to leave for Raleigh at 9 a.m., which would have caused a big disruption during the morning commute, but an organizer told WRAL News plans changed.

Truck drivers gather for protest, could disrupt I-40 traffic in Raleigh

When asked why they were protesting, one driver said it was for freedom. Others said they want to show their opposition of all vaccine and mask mandates.

“It’s just ridiculous that we’re forced to get these vaccines,” one partiicpant said. “And we want to put an end to it. We want to get these kids’ masks off their faces at school. It’s abuse.”

“It’s a little bit of everything,” another protester said. “It’s about freedom. America is supposed to be free.”

The demonstration was peaceful at noon, with drivers honking their horns and chanting anti-Joe Biden slogans. Groups of people with American flags stood on bridges over I-40 to show their support for the convoy, expected to arrive in downtown Raleigh at 1 p.m.

Truck drivers gather for protest, could disrupt I-40 traffic in Raleigh

Preparations are already in place at the legislative building, where on Thursday Raleigh police placed “No Parking” signs on streets surrounding the building. The parking ban extends from 8 a.m. on Friday until 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Both Raleigh and State Capitol police said they are aware of a potential protest that could block streets downtown.

WRAL News obtained an email sent to employees of a state agency saying “there will be street closures.”

“As of right now,” it says, “both Jones Street and Lane Street will be closed for a two-block stretch beginning at Blount Street and ending at Salisbury Street.”

An announcement circulating on social media says:

“End the mandates. Convoy to D.C. coming through Raleigh February 25th.”

Raleigh police prepare for potential weekend protests

A State Capitol Police spokesman sent WRAL News a statement saying the agency “will be monitoring events tomorrow and through the weekend; however, we cannot discuss details of security plans.”

Similar trucker protests have already happened in Canada, and another convoy is headed to Washington, D.C., this weekend.

The demonstration has been inspired by the often tumultuous trucker protest in Canada in recent weeks. National Guard troops and local police are preparing to deal with massive traffic backups and attempts to blockade downtown Washington.

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