A tailgate party invitation, offered by a man using the name of a legendary Will Ferrell character, resulted in a threatening and chaotic morning for the protesting trucker convoy.
At the Tuesday drivers meeting for the anti-vaccine convoy, which has been parked outside Washington, D.C. for weeks, a young man in a blazer marched up and grabbed the mic. He introduced himself as Ricky Murphy, but he said most would know him as “Ricky Bobby" —the name of Ferrell’s Nascar driver/baby Jesus-loving character in the 2006 movie Talladega Nights—and said he has been there for 16 days now.
“I’m not alone when I say there has been a bit of confusion with the people,” Murphy said. “It’s time that we work together with our leadership.”
In a rambling speech, Murphy eventually invited attendees over to a tailgate party that he and a streamer named Jersey Jay would be having at the “back 40” for folks to air their many grievances. Murphy also mentioned something about knowing the group's next location and promised it would have "indoor bathrooms" and spoke about how the trucker organizers aren't allowing some attendees to have a say.
This didn’t sit well with the trucker brass watching his speech. When the mic was finally handed off, a convoy organizer, clearly upset, began raging about how Murphy didn’t speak for the convoy and urged those in attendance not to be “led astray.” But Murphy had an extra hooked-up mic on him. So when he talked back to the organizer—saying “If you don’t want the people to have a voice, I can’t support this"—it was amplified. This pushed the top brass and their supporters over the edge.
Several men surrounded Murphy and began to threaten him. One of them asked “Whose convoy this is?” and Murphy responded with “We the people!” He was strongly rebuked.
“It’s going to get really ugly, really fast,” one guy said to him. “Take your speakers and get out,” a wide-eyed older man yelled. Finally, after some mediation, the situation quieted down and the group prayed together— their third prayer of the morning.
The hubbub comes after the convoy’s de facto leader and spokesperson, Brian Brase, left late last week to temporarily return to his family. While key organizers remain, it’s clear how important Brase was to keep the crew united. It’s relatively common for groups such as this one to succumb to infighting and tear themselves apart.
The “people’s convoy”, initially meant to mimic a Canadian protest against vaccine mandates after this year, features conspiracies of all sorts flowing freely through the community. The group, which arrived at the Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland on March 4, now say their ultimate goal is to get the federal COVID-19 emergency declaration lifted. (There are few COVID-19 rules left across the U.S., making their supposed initial mission somewhat redundant.) The group has been using the speedway parking lot—located about 90 minutes outside of Washington—as a staging ground. However, the group says they'll be moving elsewhere in the coming days.
Since arriving in D.C., the convoy has been driving loops around the Beltway—the road that encircles the D.C. area—and occasionally foraying into Washington proper to honk their horns and yell “Freedom!” at residents.
And it’s been a hectic few days for the convoy gang. One of the people invited to speak at a morning meeting late last week said the group was going to "take back" Black Lives Matter Plaza (but the truckers have since distanced themselves from that guy). They were trolled into oblivion by a single, slow-moving cyclist. D.C. police are investigating an incident in which a woman allegedly had her ankle run over by one of the convoy attendants. And an illness appears to be spreading through the convoy, with one of the more well-known trucker streamers taking himself to urgent care.
On top of all that, the group seems to be slowly dwindling, leaving mostly just the most fervent believers. The perceived loss of support was something even the organizers couldn’t ignore.
“I just want you to know that the people’s convoy is not dying out,” said an organizer, following the tailgate row Tuesday. “It’s not fizzling. It’s not losing traction as rumored.”
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