Organizers of the beleaguered “people’s convoy” are toying with the idea of conducting citizen’s arrests of D.C. cops, the police chief, and even the mayor, as a response to police roadblocks they’re encountering on their routes.
The trucker-led convoy, which for weeks has been stationed at a speedway in Hagerstown, Maryland, about 70 miles from D.C., has been frantically looking for common, tangible enemies that the movement can continue to rally around. With many of the COVID-19 restrictions that brought them out in the first place scrapped or eased, some leaders in the convoy have recently tried to direct the crowd’s ire towards police roadblocks and D.C. traffic.
Daily Beast reporter Zachary Petrizzo reported Tuesday that convoy co-organizer Ron Coleman (who also goes by “Grey Wolf”) was proposing putting “a summons out to the Metro PD and Mayor Bowser… we would do citizen’s arrests [of] them.” Coleman claimed, in a Wednesday interview with fringe right-wing Canadian media outlet Rebel News, that his remarks had been “taken completely out of context” and that he was just “asking questions.”
Coleman told Rebel News that he simply wanted to know if the roadblocks were “unconstitutional,” and if so, could there be citizen’s arrests performed against D.C. police officers, the police chief, or Mayor Muriel Bowser. He added that citizens' arrests were “not part of the people’s convoy’s mission.”
Conducting citizen’s arrests of D.C. officials would not only be ambitious, but in the highly unlikely scenario convoy participants managed to pull them off, would mark a dramatic escalation from their actions so far—which have largely consisted of taking symbolic laps of the capital beltway encircling D.C. and menacing commuters.
Still, the fact that convoy organizers are even discussing such measures is an ominous reminder of how extreme ideology is holding the movement together. Specifically, some organizers have expressed views consistent with the sovereign citizen movement, which, very broadly speaking, asserts that citizens should be allowed to take the law into their own hands where they see fit.
This fascination with citizen arrests was something seen at the original Canadian trucker convoy, which took over the capital city of Ottawa for weeks. Some of the rally-goers took an oath from a sovereign citizen group—which had been publicly attempting to citizen arrest politicians in Ontario for months prior— and declared themselves peace officers. They patrolled the area and wore duct tape arm bands to identify themselves. Despite believing they had the right to make arrests, no arrests were made during the Ottawa occupation.
It’s also a reminder that even if rallying cries of “end the mandates” were what got convoy participants on the road in the first place, the movement is really a grab-bag of anti-government grievances and it’s unclear what will ultimately satisfy them. Since arriving in Hagerstown, organizers have sought to balance the more radical elements within the movement with the more moderate. But these days, the crowd appears to be thinning in Hagerstown, which means the most hardcore believers are the ones remaining.
In the last week, there has been an uptick in more aggressive rhetoric and actions from the convoy. Last week, after entering D.C. proper for the first time, one of them threatened to “take back” Black Lives Matter Plaza, which convoy leadership later tried to distance themselves from.
D.C. police are also currently investigating an incident in which a driver in the “people’s convoy” struck a pedestrian on Sunday afternoon.
At the daily driver’s meeting on Wednesday morning, convoy organizers said that there was bad weather expected later in the day, and that the current plan was to take their usual lap of the beltway. After that, participants were free to do whatever they liked. “Disperse, do your own thing, be safe, follow the laws, don’t give them a reason to pull you over,” organizer Mike Landis told the crowd.
Convoy organizer Brian Brase, who has just returned to Hagerstown after a brief leave of absence to his home in Ohio, also held a press conference Wednesday with livestreamers. He said that there is no plan to occupy D.C., despite some factions in the convoy agitating for it. But he said they have no plans to leave anytime soon.
“Are we burning through money going around and around the beltway? Absolutely. But I don’t think it’s a waste because we have to do that in order to let the world know that we’re here,” Brase said. “We have to continue to keep DC Metropolitan (Police) on high alert and blocking exits, we have to continue doing those things in order to get the attention and get D.C. to notice that we’re not going anywhere.”
Brase is pushing for people to organize on a state level. However, he also warned convoy supporters of grifters. He spoke of one recent convoy attempt, where the group raised money, organized, and then immediately sent everyone home and “took off with the money.”
“I’m not saying this is going to happen, but even with the planning of the American convoys there were scammers out there,” said Brase. “There were people taking advantage of others and stealing money. There was money stolen from one of the convoys and we’re talking $13,000 stolen.”
- With files from Mack Lamoureux