They came, they saw, but they didn't conquer. After much ballyhoo, a mass trucker parade around Washington, D.C.'s beltway ended up running on empty Friday.
Following a week of intense news coverage, a convoy of truckers finally hit the beltway after the morning rush hour. Four truckers were pulled over by police for intentionally blocking traffic and driving 15 miles-per-hour, but that was the only major incident as of Friday afternoon.
Amid rain, the protest organizer who generated webwide attention by threatening to "arrest" congressmen Monday paced the National Mall with no compatriots in sight.
"I've been walking around D.C. all morning and I ain't seen [anything]," Georgia trucker Earl Conlon, who until Monday was coordinating logistics for the ride, told U.S. News around 2 p.m. "I'm downtown where the real rally is supposed to be. I haven't seen anybody and I haven't even heard anybody on the radio."
Conlon's earlier comments about the protest infuriated some of the other organizers and he quickly changed his mind about "arresting" the members of Congress he says are guilty of treason. He's now irritated that other truckers didn't make it to the Mall.
"If all they're doing is circling the loop, well a lot of good that did," he said Friday. "Sure taught D.C. a lesson then, didn't they?"
— USVeteran (@USVeteran2) October 11, 2013
Among the reasons for high public interest in the event was Conlon's plan to slow I-495, the city's beltway, with a blockade of truckers "three lanes deep." He said the truckers would be driving the 55 mph speed limit and would park their trucks in the middle of the street if police interfered.
Virginia State Police reported Friday morning that some truckers acted on the plan and slowed traffic to a crawl before police intervened.
"At about 8:50 a.m., four commercial vehicles began driving side-by-side across all four northbound lanes of I-495 on the Inner Loop slowing traffic to 15 mph," said a statement released by Virginia State Police spokesperson Corinne Geller. "Police stopped the four tractor-trailers at the 53-mile marker (Fairfax County) and warned them not to impede traffic. No summons/ticket was issued. The tractor-trailers were then allowed to proceed on their way.
A post on the "Ride for the Constitution" Facebook page from around 9 a.m. boasted, "UPDATE!! TRAFFIC BEHIND THE TRUCKERS BACKED UP FOR MILES!!!"
— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) October 11, 2013
An update later in the morning by Geller said "about a dozen or so tractor-trailers just returned to Virginia via westbound lanes of the Inner Loop. They're traveling with the flow of traffic, which is slow due to the heavy volume and weather conditions."
The truckers initially planned to meet at two locations, one in Pennsylvania and another along I-95 north of Richmond. Virginia police say about 30 commercial trucks and 15 pickup trucks began their trip northward around 7 a.m.
U.S. News was unable to reach Zeeda Andrews, the former country singer who helped promote the demonstration, for comment.
Washington Examiner writer Charlie Spiering reported on Twitter Friday afternoon the truckers are meeting at a rest stop and then will drive to the World War II memorial near the Washington Monument. He previously reported they had anticipated meeting members of Congress there before noon, but after missing the opportunity due to traffic delays had abandoned the planned stop.
The organizers of the protest sought the removal of President Barack Obama from office and wanted to bring attention to various trucker-specific grievances, including Environmental Protection Agency fuel efficiency standards, the high cost of diesel fuel, state and local anti-idling laws and the perceived deterioration of Fourth Amendment rights protecting truckers' cabs.