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Demonstrators participate in a car caravan protest calling for public school classes to be held remotely in Chicago. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

As the virus surges and mass public gatherings become more perilous, our cars have become the new vehicles of political expression.

Driving the news: Automobiles plastered with images of and makeshift memorials to COVID-19 victims who died in poverty will caravan through at least 22 state capitals next week — the latest example of Americans trading in their walking shoes for a pandemic-friendly way to make their voices heard.

  • The Rev. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, is organizing the Nov. 23 "Caravans of Mourning" event. His previous events have been modeled after MLK's 1968 Poor People's March.
  • The group originally planned a series of civil disobedience actions to bring attention to poverty from Appalachia to the Mississippi Delta.
  • Rather than cancel the demonstrations, Barber said, organizers decided to embrace social distancing to continue the fight.

Between the lines: In some cases, there's no substitute for an in-person gathering. Poor People's Campaign spokesperson said a contingency in Washington will get out of their cars for a social distancing vigil outside the National City Christian Church.

The big picture: Cars' utility amid the pandemic became apparent to individual households and communities before political movements embraced it.

Since then, caravans descending on cities in support of President Trump have garnered outsized attention, tying up traffic and clashing with opponents from Portland to New York to Washington.

  • These demonstrators — including many who get out of their cars upon arrival — have won the president's affection on Twitter.
  • Eschewing mass rally crowds out of a desire to protect public health, President-elect Joe Biden instead gathered his own supporters for drive-in style events, counting on the space separating the cars, and the limited number of seats inside each vehicle, to protect people from one another.

The bottom line: COVID-19 has transformed virtually every aspect of social engagement. In this moment, caravans are keeping protests, as well as celebrations, alive.

Go deeper

Dec 23, 2020 - Economy & Business

Used car dealers are suddenly popular

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An often underrated side of the auto industry — used car sales — is the hot new thing for some automakers who sense they are losing lucrative business to online newcomers.

Why it matters: While feasting for years on profits from expensive SUVs and trucks, many automakers have forfeited the lower end of the market at precisely the time many COVID-wary consumers are looking for an affordable alternative to public transportation.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden adviser Cedric Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations

Illustration: "Axios on HBO"

White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond told "Axios on HBO" that it's "doable" for President Biden to make first-term progress on breaking down barriers for people of color, while Congress studies reparations for slavery.

Why it matters: Biden said on the campaign trail that he supports creation of a commission to study and develop proposals for reparations — direct payments for African-Americans.

Cyber CEO: Next war will hit regular Americans online

Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."