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‘Truckers Ride for the Constitution’ to take to Beltway in protest

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Truck drivers are expected to descend on the Beltway on Friday for a political rally protesting causes ranging from the government shutdown to low wages for drivers — but claims the group planned to intentionally clog the roadways and shut down the region appear to have been overstated.

Kicking off with a rally and drive around the Beltway on Friday morning, the group is encouraging a wider general strike that would last through the weekend. Organizers encouraged truckers not to haul freight and asked supporters not to purchase any products or services that aren't completely essential.

But a Georgia trucker who made sensational comments to U.S. News and World Report about circling the Beltway "three lanes deep" and planning to seek the arrest of members of Congress for disregarding the Constitution admitted Tuesday he is not an organizer of the group and that he sensationalized his claims to ensure the protest got coverage from reporters.

"We ain't going to do that. Everybody knows it would be real stupid," Earl Conlon, 50, said Tuesday. "It was just my way of getting your attention.

"It's politics," he said. "I did what the senators do. I said one thing and did another."

Mr. Conlon, who is hopeful but not certain he will attend the protests, said he would like the demonstration to be peaceful and respectful.

The group's legitimate organizers are communicating via Facebook about their plans and goals.

"The only way to get our legislators to operate lawfully and constitutionally is to penalize them with a credible threat of a shutdown," organizers wrote in a statement about the event.

Originally billed "Truckers to Shut Down America," the protest is now called "Truckers Ride For The Constitution" after the organizing group's original social media sites were shut down.

Truckers plan to rally at the Doswell Truck Stop, close to Kings Dominion in Doswell, Va., at 7 a.m. Friday and then drive up Interstate 95 to the Beltway. The group's website encouraged drivers to outfit their vehicles with signs referencing the Constitution or with American flags.

A route map on the group's Facebook page shows that trucks will be directed to the Inner Loop of the Beltway and other participants in cars or motorcycles directed to the Outer Loop. From there, it was unclear what the exact route would be, how long drivers would circle the 64-mile Beltway, or whether they would then venture into the District.

Organizers did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

While plans go forward for the protest, some within the trucking industry have expressed skepticism of its reach and scope.

"While I applaud the goal of making an impact on Washington, the dates chosen for the actions could not be more idiotically planned," said Michael Parkhurst, chairman of the Independent Truckers Association and an organizer of previous trucking industry strikes in the 1970s.

The protests will likely fizzle out because they were organized over a weekend and don't have widespread support, Mr. Parkhurst said.

Meanwhile local authorities said they are aware of the planned events and will be looking out for them.

"We are aware of it," Maryland State Police spokesman Sgt. Marc Black said. "As long as they are not breaking the law, we are going to allow it."

In Virginia, police also said they were preparing to deal with the expected influx of traffic.

"Virginia State Police is aware of the proposed convoy of commercial vehicles and are preparing accordingly with the region's law enforcement agencies, just as we have done in the past for similar demonstrations held within the National Capital Region," spokeswoman Corinne N. Geller said in an email.

"As long as the vehicles comply with Virginia law, then the Virginia State Police will not interfere with their protest."

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