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.