Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific Standard, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
A very weird plan to send Washington a message by disrupting D.C.'s commuters.
Have you heard of Truckers for the Constitution? They have an unwieldy hashtag. And a non-self-explanatory acronym. And some pretty hefty demands. Namely: to restore constitutional order, arrest nearly everyone in power in the U.S. capital, dismantle the Department of Homeland Security, and generally overturn tyranny.
For about a week now, they've been loudly threatening to do this by sending a convoy thousands of semi-trucks long to Washington, D.C., to spend the Columbus Day weekend circling the Capital Beltway, non-stop, ensnarling traffic (although they've borrowed the language of the shutdown, they don't seem all that interested in reopening the federal government). The Facebook page for the plan has 164,000 likes. One organizer vowed no less than 10,000 trucks. Hundreds of people were tweeting cheers for the cause this morning. Even Zipcar warned local drivers to be on the lookout.
Here's the latest gleeful update from the movement's Facebook page:
And here is what is actually happening:
Local law enforcement reported that all of about 30 trucks rolled onto I-495 this morning, with virtually no impact. At one point, several trucks driving side-by-side managed to stall a stretch of traffic to 15 miles an hour, just long enough to prompt this image now making the rounds on social media as evidence of the movement's might:
Virginia state troopers pulled those vehicles over, warned them, and then allowed them to drive on.
The basic plan was fatally flawed for a number of reasons. The Beltway is 64 miles long, 12 lanes wide, and manages to carry more than 200,000 vehicles on a typical day. Not to mention if you're ticked at politicians, it's a total non-sequitur to take that out on local commuters. Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama do not get to work on I-495.
The whole (non)scene has been a tidy illustration of the gulf between reality and social media (maybe this is fitting: the Beltway is also a frequent metaphor for the barrier between Washington's weird sense of self, and the rest of the real world). Here's a favorite tweet:
Nope. They're all on. Right here. Who knew boring traffic cams made for such political theater.