The ‘Freedom’ Convoys Aren’t Just a Protest Anymore. They’re a Way of Life.

The anti-vax trucker convoy protests are much more about community now than any tangible goals.

May 6 2022, 11:00am

The bride’s father couldn’t be there, so Trucker G gave her away.

A group of four people stood proudly upon a flatbed truck at the Hagerstown Speedway parking lot in Maryland, as a man in a safety vest led the couple in their vows. Trucker G, a popular livestreamer with the “people’s convoy” who posted the ceremony to his YouTube, stood behind the bride in sunglasses and a camo-print sweatshirt. After the officiant declared the two husband and wife, they kissed in front of the crowd, raucous with approval for two of their own getting hitched.

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“Thank you, everyone, for being here. It means a lot,” the bride said. “Thank you, Trucker G, for standing in for my dad.”

Shortly after the wedding in March, many of the participants in the ceremony marched off to their big rigs and, once again, began to drive around the Washington, D.C., Capital Beltway in their quest to get the emergency declaration tied to COVID lifted. That’s been their goal since they left California in late February. The group was inspired by the Ottawa trucker convoy, which took over several blocks in downtown Ottawa for weeks before a massive police operation finally removed them. 

Both convoys evolved from the anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown movement (which itself grew from the anti-government movement) that experienced immense growth during the pandemic. Along the way, they’ve raised millions of dollars for their dedicated members, who’ve left their homes and jobs to live on the road and fight for what they see as fundamental freedoms.

But as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes—or at least the health measures instituted to protect the population do—the protest movement that grew in opposition to them is still going strong. While many truckers initially came for the “action,” it's the community, like the wedding and friendships forged along the way, that's keeping them there. It’s not just about being in the convoy, encampments, or rallies; it’s also about helping out in the kitchen in the lot where the truckers parked for the night and joining new friends around an evening fire where you can talk shop about your favorite conspiracies. 

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“It’s quite the environment down here. It’s awesome, man,” said former convoy leader Brian Brase in a March livestream. “Everyone in the convoy, they’re rock stars here.”

“There is a lot of community that is happening. The bonds that are being made here, I haven’t seen anything like it in my life.”

Demonstrators hug as trucks blow their horns and rev their engines ahead of a People's Convoy 'Freedom and Accountability' rally in Monrovia, Indiana, U.S., on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. The People's Convoy have called on President Joe Biden to end vaccine and other pandemic mandates while modeling themselves after Canadian drivers who had occupied the center of Ottawa in a similar protest. (Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Those tight bonds impact the movement’s staying power, according to Amarnath Amarasingam, an extremism and radicalization expert at Queens University. As he puts it: “It’s always been about community. It's always been about interpersonal relations.” 

"Once that mobilization happens, once that worldview is increasingly solidified, [the community] is easily mobilized again for another set of issues that might come down the road,” Amarasingam told VICE News. “This is why, even as the convoy left, there is still the long-term question."

Like with any fringe community, an entire ecosystem has developed within the convoy. There are micro-celebrities (Trucker G, for example), friendships, and feuds that occur. In Hagerstown, the convoy was nearly torn apart by a DJ named Ricky Bobby who lent his sound gear to the organizers. 

They also have their fans. One woman excitedly met them at a parking lot in Idaho last weekend to offer haircuts as the convoy passed through. She said she’d driven all the way to Maryland when the convoy was there and got to do one loop of the Beltway, which was “fantastic,” and she couldn’t wait to see them again. As she trimmed the hair of the convoy’s mechanic in front of an RV, her friend filming raved about how happy they were to be back with the truckers.

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“It’s just so amazing to be around people who believe what you believe,” she said. “When I went to beauty school years ago, they taught me not to talk about politics and religion. I’ve been following this stuff ever since before Trump won, because I knew something was up. I just knew it, and I can’t talk to my clients about it.” 

The group condemned the media’s treatment of Trump and talked about how no one realized he was “still the president” as she styled the mechanic’s shock of white hair. Another streamer (seemingly everyone involved is a streamer) wandered in and eagerly joined the conversation. 

Despite the chatter about beliefs, the truckers aren’t necessarily tied to one hard-line topic or goal. COVID and the health measures around it are but a symptom of a broader problem they’re worried about—essentially that a cabal of elites are using COVID to gain more power and eventually sell off their country to globalists. 

So if the pandemic disappears tomorrow, the community might just find a new cause. The American convoy, for example, left the Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland in early April for California to protest some bills they opposed, including ones that touch upon vaccinations and abortions.

“The convoy protest for some may have never been about the COVID mandates, but for the organizers it's a continuation of their history as anti-government extremists. Many have used similar tactics over the years to lesser success,” said Marc-Andre Argentino, an extremism researcher at Concordia University and fellow at the Global Network on Extremism and Technology.

“There is a lot of community that is happening. The bonds that are being made here, I haven’t seen anything like it in my life.”

Protests have been going on since the start of the pandemic and many of the organizers are the same people who organized previous rallies like the Yellow Vest Movement, a anti-government movement in Canada whose high point occurred just prior to the pandemic. 

This past weekend in Ottawa, many of the protesters who cut their teeth by camping out two months ago returned to Canada’s capital for the first time since they were chased out by police. They’ve since rebranded as the “Rolling Thunder,”and they rode in on motorcycles this time instead of driving trucks.

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For some, the reunion was an emotional experience. Some cried upon seeing each other, and others ran to hug their friends, the Toronto Star reported. A popular livestreamer ran into old friends almost immediately upon entering the protest grounds. “In case you didn’t know, we shared a paddy wagon together,” he excitedly told his audience about the man he just ran into. 

“The bonds formed during these kinds of heightened moments of adrenaline last a long time, and they're quite intense. The protest movements become massively important for interpersonal bonds,” said Amarasingam. “I remember during the Tamil protests people would meet and get married, you know, actual relationships formed. People referred to each other as ‘my protest mom’ and ‘my protest dad.’”

Comparisons can be drawn to previous populist movements such as Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement in the United States. Although Occupy petered out, the Tea Party has entrenched itself in the halls of power. Amarasingam said leadership will determine the convoys’ direction, but what’s certain is they’re not going away anytime soon.

Many of the people active in these communities have done so at quite a personal cost: alienation from their families and friends, losing work because they refused to get vaccinated, or emptying their retirement savings into a GoFundMe for the truckers. They're bound to be fully invested after paying a price. 

The protesters may get sick of convoying and move to a new form of protest, especially after the success of the Ottawa action cools, but the faces yelling the slogans will remain the same.

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Tagged:

California, conspiracy, Trump, MARYLAND, covid, worldnews, worldnews-covid, Trucker G

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