[italic] Police stop four slow-moving trucks but traffic flows normally on rainy Friday [/italic]
Only a few dozen independent truckers were spotted on rain-swept highways around the nation's capital Friday morning at the beginning of a purported three-day "Ride for the Constitution" rolling protest seeking to impeach President Obama and pressure Congress.
There were no signs that the trucks were slowing down traffic any more than normal on the congested capital area highway, particularly during steady rain.
Video cams on I-495, which circles the city, and I-95, which runs north and south through the region, showed normal traffic at mid-morning.
There were reports of scattered groups of trucks making their way toward Washington, D.C. About 15 pickup trucks bearing the official Twitter hashtag of the ride -- #T2SDA (Truckers to Shut Down America) -- were spotted early Friday near Doswell, about 85 miles south of the capital.
By about 8:45 a.m., Virginia State Police officials said that about 30 tractor trailers left the Dumfries truckers' scales, about 30 miles south of Washington, heading north in the right lane with their hazard lights on, WUSA-TV reports.
The Virginia State Police reports that at 8:50 a.m., four commercial vehicles began driving side-by-side across all four northbound lanes of I-495 on the Inner Loop in Virginia, slowing traffic to 15 mph. The police says the drivers of the four tractor-trailers were warned not to impede traffic.
"No summons/ticket was issued," police said in a statement. "The tractor-trailers were then allowed to proceed on their way," officials said in a news release.
The planned protest was beset by confusion over message and tactics as the holiday weekend approached..
Organizers said sympathetic demonstrations by veterans and Tea Party supporters were also planned in various state capitals and on highway overpasses during the three-day "Ride for the Constitution."
A "few thousand" tractor-trailer drivers were expected to converge on the Capital Beltway on Friday afternoon from staging areas on Interstate 95 in Virginia and Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania, co-organizer and conservative activist Zeeda Andrews told The Washington Post.
Drivers planned to occupy three lanes of Interstate 495, driving 55 mph, with the fourth lane kept clear for emergency vehicles and supporters. Only motorists displaying the group's Twitter hashtag on their vehicles will be allowed to pass, Andrews and other organizers say, adding that the protest would be peaceful and lawful.
On Monday, a Georgia trucker handling logistics for Truckers Ride for the Constitution indicated otherwise, telling U.S. News that some of the anticipated 3,000 big rigs might grind to a halt if police intervened and that a trucker "grand jury" would attempt to arrest members of Congress. The group disavowed the comments by Earl Conlon and said he was not an official spokesman.
On Tuesday, The Washington Post declared that the truckers' plan was actually a "hoax," with Conlon telling the paper his comments were "designed to do one thing and one thing only: stir the feather of the mainstream media."
Andrews and supporters quickly denied that claim, but confusion persisted and trucker representatives criticized the ride.
"The individuals leading this particular effort have no direct affiliation with trucking and appear to be using truckers in order to gain media attention and air other political grievances," the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said in a statement. "We do not support assembling in an unlawful, unpermitted manner, committing crimes, making threats on our lawmakers, or behaving in such a way to cast safe, professional truck drivers in a negative light."
A spokesman for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union told the Washington Times that the union has no involvement in or position on the protest.