After accomplishing nothing of note, but seemingly having a fun time honking their horns, the trucker protest known as the “people’s convoy” is packing up their bug-out bags and heading home.
Organizers announced the decision to leave the Washington, D.C., area at a Sunday night meeting. Organizer Mike Landis told the convoy folks in a speech it was time to "pack up” and head back to California, where the convoy kicked off in late February.
“We’re going to convoy tomorrow, we’re going to leave early,” said Landis. “Then we’re going to take the people’s convoy back to California.”
Their plan is to head out Tuesday or Wednesday morning from the Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland, the convoy’s home base (about 90 minutes outside of Washington) since March 4. The convoy’s original plan was to drive through and around the D.C. area until the COVID-19 emergency act was lifted. Needless to say, that goal was not achieved.
Some researchers following the convoy have suggested the decision was made because the convoy has used up its funds and was unable to secure a new location in Maryland. The group has long claimed to have a new location secured, after knowing they had to leave the Speedway parking lot, but never released any details. In his speech Sunday, Landis told the convoy participants that the decision was made because the California Legislature is about to vote on a series of state bills regarding vaccines and COVID.
The bills are the focus of a well-known anti-vaccine group, one of whose members, Robert Malone, gave a speech at the Speedway on Saturday.
Shifting their efforts to the state level is a massive change for the group’s goals, which had been focused on the federal level, despite there being very few vaccine rules left in the U.S.
“To me, they are the reason we are here; however, I think stopping those is more important at this point of time than getting the emergency declaration repealed because that’s already in place and we need to stop stuff like these bills getting in place.”
“So what I wanna know is, what do you all think about heading to California?”
The crowd roared with approval.
Landis said they’re “not done here” but are going to go to Cali and then return to Hagerstown to “finish this job.” The crowd then prayed—thanking God for “keeping the internet free so we all know what's going on”—and recited the pledge of allegiance. The convoy’s website now has “The People’s Convoy is Heading to California!” in large bold letters on its homepage.
The convoy is on its face against vaccine mandates, but is at its heart an anti-vaccine and anti-government movement. The protest was a copycat of one in Canada that occupied the capital city of Ottawa for several weeks, garnering international media attention. The American convoy wasn’t nearly as effective, however, despite scoring some meetings with GOP politicians thirsty for MAGA clout; all they did was honk their horns, get scared by phantom antifa, and get trolled by a cyclist. The main convoy left Adelanto, California, on Feb. 24, so they’ll essentially be backtracking the whole way home.
It wasn’t long before some supporters and conveyors started questioning this decision. Some questioned the state-vs.-federal focus, some asked if the convoy will be paying people’s fuel costs for the trip across the country, some lamented the lack of information about the decision.
“What was that bullshit last night, about us going to California,” one man on a livestream said. “You know what’s going to happen? Three-fourths of these people are going to go home.”
“I heard recently that the convoy is running out of money,” he added later. He said if he’d been at Sunday’s meeting, he would have grabbed the mic and said it was a bad idea.
“This protest started about the mandates that are in play,” wrote one supporter on Facebook. “If you don't protest every day in D.C. about the mandates, then you just shot yourself in the foot. Going to California is a bad idea.”
If the people’s convoy is seen as ineffective and backing down, researchers worry some of the most die-hard in the movement will take matters into their own hands. Sara Aniano, a graduate student studying the far-right rhetoric on social media who has been watching the convoy for weeks, said it’s not the many she’s concerned about, but the few.
“My concern is not a well-coordinated mob of thousands descending on downtown D.C.,” Aniano told VICE News previously. “My concern is people getting frustrated as they already are, but then taking that frustration and using it to mobilize and go rogue in a way that defies the official guidance of the people's convoys."
Largely though, the truckers seem supportive of the decision. Another streamer said they had to go to California because “if they pass these bills, we’re all fucked.”
This decision comes after the key organizer and the group's de facto leader, Brian Brase, took leave from the group once more. On Sunday morning, Brase said he needed to run home for an undisclosed amount of time. The last time Brase took an absence, the group fell into infighting, with a man calling himself “Ricky Bobby'' causing all sorts of drama.
“Don’t worry, I’m not disappearing and never coming back,” said Brase. “I will be back, not abandoning you, not running away.”
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