Trucker Convoy Rally Sees Few Protesters as World Focuses on Ukraine

The People's Convoy—a group of anti-COVID mandate truck drivers—have spent weeks preparing to take over Washington D.C. during President Joe Biden's State of the Union address this evening, but with world's media attention focused on the war in Ukraine, Tuesday's planned protest suffered low turnout.

Video footage from the "Stage of Freedom" event at the National Mall showed organizers speaking to a few dozen cameras and an almost empty crowd on Tuesday afternoon, despite previous claims from the convoy that 3,000 protesters were expected to be in attendance. The estimates were reduced by organizers to an audience of 500 people closer to the event.

Over the past few weeks, the convoy made national headlines for their plans to mimic demonstrators in Canada who also embarked on a cross-country road trip to the nation's capital of Ottawa, where they occupied the city for 24 consecutive days.

However, less than a day after the People's Convoy departed from their starting point in Southern California, Russian troops began their invasion into Ukraine, drawing the attention of the world—including Biden, who is expected to shift some of his Tuesday address to Congress away from domestic affairs and towards the ongoing escalation of events in Europe.

Ukraine Russia People's Convoy Protesters Truckers
Less than a day after the People's Convoy departed from their starting point in Southern California, Russian troops began their invasion into Ukraine. Demonstrators gather at the Lincoln Memorial to stand in solidarity with Ukraine and protest against the rising tensions between Russia and Ukraine before marching to the White House on February 20, 2022 in Washington, D.C. Kenny Holston/Stringer

Rally organizer Kyle Sefcik claimed that the reason only a few truckers and vehicles were able to attend Tuesday's event was due to the difficulty of obtaining a commercial permit to pass the checkpoint in D.C.

"But I still showed up. Even if none of you did, I'd still be right here." Sefcik said from the stage. "Because I keep my word and I know what I'm fighting for."

A number of states have also lifted their mask mandates—one of the key restrictions the convoy was protesting—since the truckers embarked on their journey to the nation's capital.

Just days after the convoy hit the road, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its masking guidance in accordance with the steady decline in infections nationwide, prompting several governors to roll back COVID safety measures.

Speaking at Tuesday's event, Sefcik said, "I don't speak for them but there is a huge convoy making its way throughout the country. There is. You need to support them."

While the convoy's itinerary said the group wouldn't arrive in the D.C. area until Saturday, local law enforcement has issued warnings that their arrival could coincide with the State of the Union.

Despite the low protester turnout on Tuesday, National Guards activated in anticipation of possible demonstrations were seen re-installing fencing around the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday afternoon.

The Department of Defense had approved a request from the U.S. Capitol Police to deploy 700 unarmed troops and 50 tactical vehicles through to next Monday.

Biden has continued to focus his efforts on Ukraine, speaking with his Ukrainian counterpart over the phone on Tuesday, during which President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the commander-in-chief for the support from the U.S.

"Just had a conversation with @POTUS. The American leadership on anti-Russian sanctions and defense assistance to Ukraine was discussed," Zelensky tweeted shortly after the call. "We must stop the aggressor as soon as possible. Thank you for your support!"

Their conversation comes on the same day that the European Parliament approved Ukraine's application to become a member of the European Union.

Biden will deliver his address from the Capitol tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

Aside from commenting on Ukraine, the president is also expected to unveil a plan to lower costs for American families, address the evolution of the COVID pandemic and highlight his political victories since taking office just over a year ago.