No one is exactly clear on what their demands are. But the rabid Trump supporters who formed a convoy that crossed the country and ended up at a raceway parking lot on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., are going to keep doing loops on the Beltway interstate around the city until they are met. Whatever they are.
The “People’s Convoy,” which originated in Los Angeles and then traversed the nation till it reached a raceway in Hagerstown, Maryland, performed a couple of loops around the Beltway on Sunday to little noticeable effect. They plan to keep doing it, they say, until their “message” is heard—though it’s hard to tell exactly what that message is.
In the meantime, the “truckers”—over half of whom are not truckers at all, but rather drive pickups and SUVs and passenger vehicles—have been working up their dander among each other and directing it journalists who try to report on them, indulging their bigotry in the process. One reporter from an ABC News affiliate, a Black man, was heckled out by the crowd.
An observer named Terry Bouton posted about the scene on Twitter:
The most worrisome moment was when a crowd surrounded a Black reporter for DC's ABC affiliate. They asked why a Black reporter was sent. They demanded he say, "Truckers are heroes!" on air. When he refused, a man repeatedly shouted "LEAVE!" in his face. He left, visibly shaken.
The ostensible cause behind the convoy protest originally was similar to the one deployed in Canada, where a group of truckers managed to shut down Ottawa’s downtown for three weeks—namely, COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and mandates. They call these measures infringements on their freedoms.
The problem is that most of these restrictions have already been rescinded or blocked in the courts on the federal level, and on the local and state levels are in the process of ending. So protesters have been saying that what they’re really about is “taking back our freedom,” or other standard Patriot movement conspiracist cant.
Some of the discussions among the convoy participants have revolved around figuring out a new target for their protests. A number have suggested they focus on demanding the release of the dozens of January 6 protesters currently imprisoned in the D.C. detention center. Others want to protest Joe Biden’s presence in the White House, still firmly convinced that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
The most recent permutation is a demand to end the government’s ability to declare national emergencies. A spokesperson for the convoy, Maureen Steele, told WJLA-TV those powers were toxic for America: “The cure was worse than the disease, suicide rates through the roof, divorce through the roof.”
When the convoy first gathered on Saturday, there was considerable confusion about what the next step might be. Hundreds of vehicles, as Left Coast Right Watch reported, parked in the raceway lot overnight, and more kept rolling in. Notorious right-wing grifters Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman showed up and were given the boot.
What they apparently decided early on was that they didn’t want to go into downtown D.C. because they suspected authorities were laying a “trap” for them. One participant told a videographer: “We don’t want to be framed and set up by Nancy Pelosi ... We’re all too smart for that.”
Later that evening, chief organizer Brian Brase told the crowd that he and others had scouted out downtown D.C. and had spotted a “trap” waiting for them. So their next plan was to “try diplomacy,” and if failed, they would “take the next step,” whatever that is.
Brase told the gathering that they planned to stick with driving in loops around the Beltway, vowing that local workers would only experience a “normal commute,” and that there would be no violence or lawbreaking.
“We just have a message that we want heard,” Brase said. “We’re not going anywhere until it’s heard.”
On Sunday, they set out to drive two 64-mile loops around the Beltway before returning to Hagerstown. “We’re not going to shut anything down today, we’re just going to do a convoy so they can see we’re in their backyards, and that we are huge,” Brase told the crowd.
However, their presence was hardly felt at all, since the convoy participants all wound up spread throughout the everyday congestion on the freeways around D.C. Observer Zachary Petrizzo noted that after one lap, “the circular Beltway left the truckers defeated this afternoon as most of them have been separated from one another by standard traffic.”
The director of the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, Christopher Rodriguez, told the New York Times that the protest did not cause any major disruptions to the city’s transportation routes Sunday, adding the cautionary note that it was a “fluid and unpredictable event.”
One participant reported that someone in an SUV driving past the convoy was “causing shit,” so the truckers decided to box him in on the freeway, eventually forcing the SUV to a complete stop. “Those are people that are paid by people like George Soros,” he said.
Another participant, interviewed by videographer Ford Fischer, was dressed in chain mail armor and wearing both a Knights Templar symbol—favored by Christian nationalists—as well as a shirt decorated with the Celtic crosses popular with neo-Nazis. “Yeah, I believe this is a people’s Crusade,” he said. “It’s a crusade in that people have to fight the evil in the world, man. … People have to band together and fight on the side of the Lord. You know, God wills it, man.”
That evening, Brase again spoke to the crowd in Hagerstown, trying to dispel what he called the “MSM myth” that the convoys had fizzled out: “A lot of work was accomplished out there on the Beltway today. A powerful statement was made.”
At one of the Telegram chat channels for the convoy, an organizer indicated that the protest will keep adding laps until they get their proper due: “Monday 3 laps, Tuesday 4 laps, Wednesday 5 laps and so on until the people are heard. They have not ruled out going to DC proper if it comes to that.”
Participants have likened Washington to enemy territory, claiming that corrupt politicians are looking for an excuse to wield their power and arrest the truckers. Their primary demand has been for the government to “restore our Constitution” by ending the COVID-related state of emergency declared by Donald Trump in March 2020. Its effects remain largely technical and related to limited rules and regulations, such as allowing off-site screening operations by hospitals or allowing them to expand telehealth services.
On participant who spoke to the Times—Ron Dimaline, a 67-year-old pastor from Pike County, Ky.—explained that, while he was especially angry at pandemic-related measures, he was also frustrated with the rising cost of gas and feared that the United States was drifting toward communism.
All of this, however, may well all be in service of just another right-wing moneymaking scam. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that the primary fundraising operation for the convoy is run by a woman convicted in 2020 of felony fraud and exploitation.
Thousands of people have donated to the cause, and its overseers claim they have raised $1.5 million of their $5 million goal. The outfit they donate through is the American Foundation for Civil Liberties and Freedom Foundation (AFCLF), which launched last year. Its executive director is a Texas woman named Pamela Milacek, who is currently being sought by authorities for violating the terms of her community supervision after pleading guilty to felony fraud and exploitation charges in 2020.
They got a big boost for their convoy project when they were platformed on Lindell TV, the media outfit created by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, one of the primary promoters of the 2020 election fraud conspiracy theories.
Anyone who clicked on hit the convoy website’s “Donate Now” button was directed to the AFCLF’s website. Once there, they could donate by check, credit card, or cryptocurrency. Among the options was the opportunity for riding with a trucker for a day on the journey. It cost $5,000.