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Monday, December 09, 2019

Tag: peoples convoy

Trucker ‘Convoy’ Arrives In Northwest Amid Random Gunfire And Political Confusion

One month after trundling out of Washington, D.C., with nothing but a few Ted Cruz photo ops under their belt, the “People’s Convoy” protest—a sort of rolling roadshow of far right-wing “Patriot” grievance, modeled after the truckers’ protest that shut down Ottawa in February—is still going, sort of, and can’t figure out when to call things quits.

The whole affair took on ominous undertones this weekend when, upon reaching the Pacific Northwest, shots were fired after protesters attempted harassing them from a freeway overpass. A badly organized rally in Olympia the next day was just a circus of far-right conspiracism and extremism. And at its end, the convoy organizers announced they intend to return to D.C., and this time they “mean business.”

The convoy, as it announced when it left Washington, headed to California so it could travel to Sacramento and protest the state Legislature over health mandates and “critical race theory”—which it did, to relatively little effect. It kept going after that, attempting to harass individual legislators by traveling to the home of a California Democratic leader in Oakland.

However, that protest turned into a fiasco for the convoy when they found themselves stuck on narrow streets in the middle of neighborhoods, leaving them sitting ducks for teenagers who began pelting them with eggs. One video showed a trucker getting out of his cab to confront his tormentors and being forced to flee back inside.

The protest then turned north and passed through the Portland area on Friday, which is where it encountered protesters along Interstate 205 northbound, as Vishal P. Singh reported for Kos. Videos recorded on livestreams show that about four or five people—one of whom draped a banner over the railing—threw objects at the trucks, in response to which someone from within the convoy fired gunshots directed at them; the same livestreams showed shots being fired at an overpass several miles farther north as well.

The first encounter occurred in Portland near the intersection of Interstates 205 and 84 at the overpass on Glisan Street, which cannot be accessed from the freeway. Video shows three or four people tossing objects—which appear mostly to be eggs and paint-filled balloons—in the direction of the trucks, which have stopped in a line across the three lanes of the freeway.

At one point, a fire truck participating in the convoy got out a water cannon and sprayed it in the direction of the protesters—but to no effect, since its range was too short. Eventually, as the protesters appeared to be leaving, one of the convoy participants could be seen pulling out a pistol, and several gunshots could be heard.

Then, 18 miles farther north on I-205, across the Columbia River near its junction with Interstate 5 in Vancouver, Washington, members of the convoy again apparently opened fire on people standing on the 134th Street overpass. One livestreamer claimed they were throwing objects, but their video showed the person standing on the overpass above them was waving a flag and appeared to be a supporter; nonetheless, in another video of drivers approaching that scene, multiple gunshots can be heard coming from the convoy.

Finally, in a video collected by antifascist activist @Johnthelefty, a police officer catches up with the caravan in Vancouver and, rather than inquire about the gunfire, chats with the activists agreeably and shakes their hands.

The convoys’ supporters thought the gunfire was justified. On Twitter, one of them posted:

What SHOULD people do if gangs of transvestite communist ninjas organize to try to cause accidents by throwing paint-bombs at Semi-truck windshields?

Well... These guys decided "Shoot the Bastards" is the appropriate response.

Pretty sure society is all reaching this conclusion.

The next morning, the convoy headed north to Olympia, where the plan was to hold a rally at the state Capitol. The “People’s Convoy” group arriving from the south were met by smaller convoys arriving from northern parts of Puget Sound (including Whidbey Island) and the Seattle Eastside. The majority of these vehicles were four-wheelers festooned with banners.

But after pulling up their big rigs and parking along the avenues to the east of the Capitol, the convoy participants got out to discover that the 1 p.m. rally they were supposed to be attending was barely in motion. The livestreamer who operates 1st Responders Media, Josue “Big Joe” Felix, could be seen wandering the grounds in search of the rally venue, muttering: “I do not know where the rally’s gonna be at!”

It turned out to be a very small affair involving a few dozen people, taking place under and around some red portable shelters near the Tivoli Fountain, about 1/8 mile from the Capitol itself. And as it got underway under a drenching downpour, it became clear that its chief organizers—a group called We The People Against Communism (WTPAC)—were extremist conspiracy theorists of the first rank.

The first speaker was a woman from WTPAC who launched into a rant claiming that “democracy is socialism”:

We’re all sitting around waiting for voting to change what’s going on, and I need to tell you guys it’s not gonna change it. You guys have voted and voted and voted and voted and voted and where has it got us? Communism! Communism!

The next thing you guys need to figure out is you need to ask all your political candidates why do they support democracy? Democracy is socialism, socialism is communism, and that is how we got here! Democracy is not for the Republic!

America was founded upon God, and it is a Republic, not a democracy! And we need to remember that, and it is time that we stand up and defend! Our! Country!

We own it! The government does not own it! It is ours! We! Pay! Them!

Reverting to a bullhorn, she continued to rant that “we are going to take on the hospitals and the pharmacies,” and urged the rain-drenched audience: “And if you still have kids in school, get! Them! Out! These schools are just Communist government-ran camps! Get your children out of public school! Collapse the system! That’s how we win!”

The crowd applauded.

One speaker defended Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, the Proud Boy currently in prison awaiting trial on charges involving his participation in protest violence in Portland in August 2020; another was a trucker who urged the Olympia gathering to get out larger crowds.

But the most striking speaker was a woman, apparently a member of WTPAC, who told the crowd she was born and raised in China and served in its military before coming to the United States after the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989, and had brought to the rally a sign proclaiming: “Stop CCP [Chinese Communist Party] Infiltration”.

“The CCP is the root of all evil,” she claimed. “They helped Joe Biden steal President Trump’s presidency.”

She went on to claim that COVID-19 was a Chinese bioweapon: “This time, so-called COVID-19, the Wuhan virus, we call it the CCP virus,” she said. “It unleashed a virus to attack the United States. Lock you down, into your house, wherever, so that you are not allowed to get together like this, we are today.”

She also claimed that Zoom and TikTok were part of a Chinese plot to collect facial-recognition data on everyone, “what you do, what is your social circle. This is a planned attack, planted by the CCP.” She also claimed that the Biden administration is releasing Chinese spies, and now Chinese intelligence is attacking “me and my colleagues here,” and that she and her family have been threatened. She then launched into a rant claiming that Biden is a puppet of Chinese Communists:

Biden is the biggest traitor I have ever seen in the United States! Biden, his brother James Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden, under this so-called fake president! He is not what we voted! He stole the position! But under the help of the Chinese Communist Party, CCP. We must not give up. And Biden is treason, and Biden is a traitor. That’s why, when we welcomed him, the slogan I had on the red curtain, banner, it said: ‘Impeach Traitor Joe Biden.’

The crowd lustily applauded her as well.

One of the final speakers was a convoy leader named David Riddell, from Lebanon, Ohio, known among the truckers and their online fans as “Santa,” thanks to his beard and portly appearance. Riddell appeared to be taking on the role of convoy spokesperson, announcing that they were next taking their roadshow to Post Falls, Idaho, where the owners of a speedway had offered to host them, and they planned to spend at least week figuring out their next step.

But Riddell also made clear that their convoy protest would not end. Rather, they planned to return to Washington, D.C., in part because it was clear they felt humiliated:

You made fun of us, you placated us with cute little words, and you came out and had your little photo op meetings with us, that’s going to happen no more.

When we go back to D.C., we are not the same convoy that went there the first time. We are not the same convoy that left there. We are coming back with teeth and a backbone! That’s all there is to it! We are going there and we will be heard!

I don’t think they understand the sincerity and the hearts of American Patriots today! We are totally fed up with tyranny!

However, there never was a point in the event when it was clear exactly what they were protesting in Olympia—since most mandates in Washington state have been or are being rescinded—or what their demands might be. Instead, it was just Patriot movement angst:

So we’re going back to D.C. We want you to join with us. Come from wherever you are. Start forming your convoys. We’re doing the same thing we did before, but this time we’re serious about it. We’ve learned some stuff since last time. We’re going back there, and we’re going to be heard. How many’s gonna go with us?

We’re going in to do business. We don’t need 100 trucks. We don’t need 200 trucks. We don’t need 500 four-wheelers. We need tens of thousands of all you to get in your vehicles, join with us, and come to Washington, D.C.

You’ve taken our money and put it back into special interest groups that does not represent the people, and we’re coming to make sure that you understand that we’re not happy with that! We’re tired of that. The American people are fed up—we’re fed up with that nonsense. You’re struggling from week to week and trying to pay your bills, so some fat cat in Washington sells off his special-interest group and they buy him a house and give him a plane ticket to a great vacation somewhere, where you’re hoping just to go to an amusement park somewhere with your family! They tax you to death and do not represent you.

Just as their demands and their entire purpose is unclear, the “People’s Convoy” is also unclear about how it is able to keep operating, especially for people who claim to be barely able to live paycheck to paycheck. That fundraising income must be a powerful incentive to just keep going and going anyway.

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos.

'People's Convoy' Truck Protest Drives Pointless Laps Around Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hundreds of trucks, recreational vehicles and cars were circling the outskirts of Washington on Sunday, threatening to cause traffic backups around the capital as part of a protest against COVID-19 restrictions.

The so-called "People's Convoy," which originated in California and has drawn participants from around the country, is calling for an end to all pandemic-related restrictions. It was inspired by demonstrations last month that paralyzed Ottawa, Canada's capital city.

The convoy's message has been undercut in recent weeks as major U.S. cities have rolled back mask mandates and other measures against COVID-19. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, signaled in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that the country was entering a new, more controlled phase of the pandemic without business lockdowns or school closures.

But that did not stop hundreds of vehicles from gathering on Friday and Saturday at the Hagerstown Speedway, a racetrack in Maryland about 80 miles (129 km) northwest of downtown Washington.

On Sunday morning, many left in convoy to drive slow laps around the Beltway, a highway that encircles the city. They honked their horns as they set off, while onlookers waved American flags, according to a Reuters witness.

It remained unclear whether the convoy would drive into downtown Washington. Organizers said the plan for Sunday was to stay on the Beltway then head back to Hagerstown.

At the racetrack on Friday night, one participant who described himself as the lead trucker told a cheering crowd he would drive his truck into the heart of the American capital.

"D.C., the government, whomever, can claim that they have all this opposition for us waiting in D.C.," the man said. "But that flag on the back of my truck will go down to Constitution Avenue between the White House and the Washington Monument."

Federal law enforcement agencies have been coordinating with state and local authorities for weeks in preparation for the possible arrival of the convoy, according to one U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss internal operations.

A February 26 U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bulletin to law enforcement reviewed by Reuters said trucker convoys could hinder emergency responders depending on the size of the protest.

(Reporting by Julio-Cesar Chavez, Gabriella Borter and Ted Hesson; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

Right-Wing Trucker Convoys Carrying Disinformation And Chaos Near D.C.

The “trucker convoy” protests—like all right-wing protests—have never been about their advertised grievance: that is, COVID-related vaccine and mask mandates and restrictions. Whether in Canada or the United States, it’s always been right-wing street theater designed to undermine democratic institutions and discourse by creating social and political chaos, while widely sowing disinformation along the way.

That’s become eminently manifest with their much-advertised American versions—which, unlike the protest that besieged Ottawa for three weeks, have splintered into about three different versions and even a localized variation with different timelines, and a couple have ended up calling it quits. Most of all, they are trundling on toward Washington, D.C., defiantly in the face of government “tyranny” that in fact is currently rolling back all such restrictions, as it said from the start it eventually would.

There appear to be at least three main convoys that organized to head toward Washington: a “People’s Convoy,” an “American Freedom Convoy,” and a “Freedom Convoy USA,” all taking different routes—though they also appear to use their names interchangeably, and may be just different wings of the same set of far-right organizers. “People’s Convoy” is the largest of them and appears to have deployed different routes, all arriving in the D.C. area this weekend, though apparently with no intention of blocking traffic or wreaking havoc there.

There’s also a Pacific Northwest regional “convoy” scheduled to descend on Olympia, Washington, on Saturday with the intention of shutting down the town. Called the “GRIT Freedom Festival” and organized by a coalition of far-right groups called March for Our Rights, it’s purportedly also a protest against Washington state’s pandemic restrictions.

Among the scheduled speakers Saturday is Loren Culp, the ex-cop and longtime “Patriot” movement figure who not only badly lost in 2020 as the Republican gubernatorial candidate, but refused, Trump-like, to ever concede his election loss. Culp is currently running in the GOP primary against eastern Washington incumbent Congressman Dan Newhouse, a conservative Republican who made the mistake of voting to impeach Donald Trump in February 2021; Culp has Trump’s endorsement.

As the Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat notes, those measures are being rolled back at the very moment they’re arriving to protest the “tyranny”: “It’s as if the disease and the public health measures that went along with it were simply fresh targets for the same crowd that’s always down in Olympia calling the government tyrannical for one reason or another.”

The same is true of the convoys headed for Washington. The Washington Post editorial board observes:

The truckers, like everyone else, are tired of pandemic restrictions. It seems lost on them, or some of them, that those restrictions are being rapidly rolled back as covid-19, which has caused nearly 1 million U.S. deaths, is receding in most parts of the country.

Some of them say they want President Biden to repeal the national emergency declared by President Donald Trump in March 2020, as the pandemic hit. It was due to end Tuesday, but Mr. Biden extended it, mainly as a means to free up federal funds. As mask mandates recede and federal vaccine mandates have been circumscribed by the courts, the emergency—whose terms most Americans would be hard-pressed to define—seems one of the few remaining targets for the truckers’ ire, albeit a largely abstract one. On Wednesday, the White House unveiled a new road map to move the country off a crisis footing.

Nonetheless, downtown Washington is gearing up for the possible chaos the convoys might bring by deploying 700 unarmed National Guard members and preparing tow-away operations for vehicles deliberately obstructing traffic. The troops’ main purpose would involve assisting with traffic control.

All of the convoy organizers have right-wing backgrounds, including the organizers of the infamous January 6, 2021 “Stop the Steal” rally, Amy Kremer and her Women for America First outfit, and Kimberley Fletcher and her Moms for America. Others similarly specialize in conspiracist fear-mongering, including QAnon followers, vaccine opponents, and various “Patriots” ostensibly fighting “tyranny.”

“We do have people that are in power in this country that don’t care about we the people, they care about their own self and their own monetary value, that are getting rich off this ‘pandemic,’” U.S. convoy organizer Mike Landis—using air quotes with “pandemic”—told would-be donors in a fundraising video. He compared the Biden administration to a “dictatorship [and] communism-style regime.”

The largest and most organized is the “People’s Convoy,” which appears to have organized several cross-country routes beginning in southern California and working their way across the country. They all kicked off from Adelanto, California, on February 23. The main group, according to their own itinerary, went through Kingman, Arizona, then through New Mexico and Texas before working their way to Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and finally arriving in Hagerstown, Maryland, on Saturday.

The People’s Convoy originally recruited participants by saying its intended target was the the D.C. Beltway area on Saturday. However, convoy organizer Brian Brase announced on Friday that those plans had changed, telling supporters in Lore City, Ohio, that it now intended to stay in Hagerstown for both Friday and Saturday. A Saturday night rally is planned “only two miles from the Beltway.”

Organizers claim there are thousands of participants, but an Indiana State Police spokesman told the Post that there were fewer than 300 vehicles in the convoy when it arrived in Indiana. A majority of those, he said, were not large trucks but passenger vehicles. In reality, this “convoy” more closely resembles the “Trump Trains” that plagued the 2020 campaign landscape than the protest that shut down Ottawa.

Then there’s the “Freedom Convoy,” which originally was the brainchild of a Pennsylvania trucker named Bob Bolus, who organized his own “convoy” from Scranton. It turned into a procession of one truck (with a number of flag-waving pickups and SUVs supporting him from behind) which broke down en route after Bolus’ truck got two flat tires.

Bolus had attracted heavy press attention for plan when he told a Fox 5 D.C. reporter that he intended to “shut down” the Beltway, comparing his convoy to a deadly boa constrictor, which “squeezes you, chokes you, and it swallows you—and that’s what we’re going to do to D.C.”

But in case anyone thought this protest really was about vaccine mandates, Bolus also told reporters he planned to protest the death of Jan. 6 Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt, the teaching of “critical race theory” in schools, and rising fuel costs.

Bolus’ concept, however, was shared widely, and a number of other Freedom Convoys set out for D.C. One of these, like the People’s Convoy, started out in southern California, with scheduled stops in Salt Lake City, Denver and other major cities. However, it couldn’t keep its participants together for long, with some bugging out to join the People’s Convoy. Organizers told The New York Times they were calling it all off for lack of participants.

One “Freedom Convoy” route included stops in central Washington and Boise, Idaho, apparently taking a more northern route that wrapped up in Lebanon, Tennessee, before joining the others this weekend. One of them found himself without a vehicle mid-route when Penske—the rental company whose truck he had festooned with banners and driven halfway across the country—shut his truck down remotely.

“Penske does not support the people’s convoy movement,” the driver said on a Facebook stream. “So, I’m in a situation where I’m not going to be able to continue on.”

Some of the Freedom Convoy truckers were scheduled to arrive in D.C. on March 1, in time for that evening’s State of the Union speech before Congress. They planned a big rally in Washington, promised attendance of 3,000, and set up a stage with speakers. Only about 20 people showed up.

“We stood our ground,” Bolus said Thursday. “But many of the truckers did not show up because they were fearful of losing their trucks. If they all followed us, they would have helped to make our point as we drove around the beltway. The fact is, many were afraid to go.”

“I think we intimidated them,” Bolus said. “We’ve been recognized world-wide.”

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos