Multiple caravans across the Tri-State took to Interstate 275 Saturday morning, decorating and driving their vehicles in support of President Donald Trump's bid for reelection in November.
The total number of people participating in the parade was not immediately clear at 10 a.m. when the parade began, but WCPO field teams observed hundreds of people at various locations around the 84-mile loop. A crowd of 200-300 people gathered at Eastgate Mall, while another 100-150 gathered outside Hobby Lobby's location in Colerain. Outside the Showcase Cinema in Fairfield, people had gathered with as many as 50 vehicles.
"We've seen a lot of boat parades that have happened. We thought this would be a great way to do something different and come together as a community, as a people and really enjoy a couple of hours," said Laura Hayes, a Trump supporter who suggested the meet-up location in Fairfield.
As of Saturday morning, nearly 7,000 people RSVP'd to the "Trump Parade Cincinnati Ohio" event page on Facebook, with more than 12,000 others indicating they were interested. Organizers did not indicate any official affiliation with the Trump campaign.
By 10 a.m., caravans began making their way toward the interstate.
By 11:20 a.m., Ohio Department of Transportation's real-time traffic map showed multiple areas with significant traffic congestion, but the majority of the interstate maintained normal traffic flow. Most of the congestion cleared by 1 p.m.
Here's a look at where traffic is backing up on I-275, a bit over halfway through the 2-hour pro-Trump parade going on right now.— Pat LaFleur (@pat_laFleur) September 12, 2020
The crash near Loveland occurred shortly before the caravans began moving and has WB traffic down to 1 lane. @WCPO pic.twitter.com/xu2jYRo2ph
Lt. Robert Hayslip with the Ohio State Highway Patrol Post 13 in Batavia told WCPO his agency was not affiliated with the event, but law enforcement would have a presence and would be monitoring the situation throughout the morning.
Organizers encouraged participants to continue driving the loop until noon.
"If everyone does what the event says to do, there shouldn't be any issues," Hayslip said.
The event organizers asked participants to "stay safe at ALL times," and to enter and exit the interstate wherever it was most convenient for them or their group. They asked that participants activate their flashers, observe a speed between 50 and 55 miles per hour, and remain in the right lane as much as is safely possible.
Hayes reiterated these safety plans moments before the parade began: "Everyone will try and go 50 to 55 miles per hour. Try to keep a good two to three cars-length distance. Try to ride in the middle lane or the right lane to allow for traffic, to be cordial and considerate of other people on the road who have to get where they have to go."
But some others on the road who weren't affiliated with the parade said it meant they had to be extra cautious. Wil Gaines was part of a Christian motorcycle group that traveled from Indianapolis for brunch. The group didn't know about the parade.
"I've never seen a bunch of Trump supporters in this city, but they are entitled to their own opinion," Gaines said. "It was OK until they started to cut us off."
Clyde Posley was also riding with the group, and he said the large caravans put the motorcyclists at extra risk.
"It's more dangerous because we have our wives to protect out here," he said. "The ones who were driving in that manner didn't seem to care anything about that. It's all about what they want and not anything about the common safety."
Traffic problems began to emerge before the parade even began. Minutes before the caravans began moving toward the highway, a wrong-way, multi-vehicle crash shut down a portion of I-275 westbound near Loveland Madeira Road. It was not immediately clear if the wrong-way crash occurred in relation to the parade. Sheriff's deputies reopened that portion of the interstate around 11:30.
WCPO camera crews witnessed additional crashes along I-275 near Lawrenceburg, Indiana, as well as at least one wreck on the interstate near Beechmont Avenue. Information about those crashes -- including whether or not they involved participants in the parade -- was not immediately available.
Hayslip mentioned his agency would also monitor for the possibility of counter-protesters but said he was not aware of any specific counter-protest activity planned.
Organizers compiled a list of staging areas where caravans could congregate on the event's Facebook page:
- Exit #2 Mineola Pike - Shell Station at exit
- Exit #8 KY 237 North Bend / Hebron - Hebron Kroger, TANK bus parking area
- Exit #11 KY 8 Petersburg
- Exit #16 US 1/ US 50 Lawrenceburg, Indiana Fairgrounds
- Exit #21 Kilby Road/ Harrison
- Exit #28 Rt. 128 Cleves Park & Ride Lot
- Exit #31 Ronald Reagan Highway / Blue Rock Road
- Exit #33 Colerain - Hobby Lobby area, Elda Elementary School, Lowes (possibly)
- Exit #36 US 127 Hamilton Ave. / Mt. Healthy/ Fairfield, parking lot behind Frish's
- Exit #39 Winton Road Fairfield / Greenhills, old Forest Fair Mall parking lot
- Exit #41 SR 4 Fairfield, Showcase Cinema
- Exit #42 SR 747, Tri-County Mall
- Exit #43 I-75 West Chester / Liberty Township, Ikea
- Exit #44 Mosteller Road / Sharonville
- Exit #46 US 42 Sharonville/Mason, Gabe's
- Exit #47 Reed Hartman / Blue Ash
- Exit #49 I – 71/ Fields Ertel, Home Depot
- Exit #50 US 22/SR 3 Montgomery Road, Eddie Merlots near Gate of Heaven Cemetery
- Exit #52 Loveland Maderia Road / Loveland
- Exit #54 Wards Corner Road, Frisch's lot
- Exit #57 SR 28 Milford, Service Station 28, Thornton's, Old Kmart lot
- Exit # 59 SR 450/US 50 Milford Parkway, Walmart
- Exit #63 SR 32 Eastgate, Eastgate Mall /back lot by Kohl's/Sears; Kroger lot off Mt. Carmel Tobasco Rd.; Veteran's Park/ Clough Pike
- Exit #65 SR 125 Beechmont Ave/Ohio Pike, lot next to the Old Wendy's Veteran's Park/ Clough Pike
- Exit #69 Five Mile Road, Outback area
- Exit #71 US 52E Kellogg Ave./New Richmond, Coney Island area
- Exit #72 US 52W Kellogg Ave.
- Exit #74 I-471/ US 27 - I-471 Newport/ Exit #3 Grand Ave. / Kroger Plaza
- Exit #77 KY 9 AA Highway/ Wilder, Banklick Road /KY 9 area
- Exit #79 KY 16 Taylor Mill, ramp heading East; Remke
- Exit #80 KY 17 Madison Pike / Independence, Covington, KY; Pioneer Park; Walmart Parking lot
- Exit #82 KY 1303 Turkeyfoot Road
- Exit #83 US 25/ US 42 / US 127 Dixie Highway / Crestview Hills; Crestview Hills Town Center
- Exit #84 I-75 / I -275 Erlanger, KY
- Exit #184 on I-75 KY236 Erlanger, KY, Superbowl parking lot
- Exit #11 I-74 Harrison Avenue; Meijer Parking lot