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The American answer to Canada’s Freedom Convoy, the largest of which is the self-titled People’s Convoy, will arrive in the D.C. metropolitan area this weekend to begin protesting vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and lockdowns, as well as to petition for the protection of civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
Several convoys organized and departed from different parts of the U.S. in late February. The largest of these, the People’s Convoy, left from California, and other convoys traveling from other directions have joined up as it rolled east, with major rallies held along the way, including in St. Louis, Missouri; Monrovia, Indiana; Lore City, Ohio; and Hagerstown, Maryland.
The convoy reportedly has more than 10,000 vehicles participating, including 18-wheelers driven by truckers and cars and pickup trucks driven by supporters. Thousands of other Americans have gathered on roadways and overpasses to cheer them along the way.
Describing the movement’s mission, co-founder and trucker Brian Base stated:
“Americans love our freedoms and love the Constitution of The United States of America. This convoy aims to bring back our freedoms, our civil liberties, and end all mandates. This is about our rights, as well as the freedom of future generations. It’s not about political parties, but moreso [sic] about a government that has forgotten its place and has no regard for our [F]ounding [F]athers instructions, The Constitution.”
The group is also demanding the end of the COVID-19 national emergency and for “our cherished constitution” to “reign supreme” instead.
On March 1, even as thousands of trucks were rolling through the Heartland, the Biden administration informed Congress that it will extend the U.S. national emergency for COVID-19 for a third year despite the fact that cases continue to plummet and other countries have declared the pandemic over. Two days after the Biden announcement, GOP members in the U.S. Senate voted 48-47 along party lines to terminate those emergency powers, but that resolution is unlikely to be taken up by the Democrat-controlled House, and even if it did, the Biden administration has already promised to veto it.
Initially, it was thought that the truckers would arrive on U.S. Capitol grounds in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address. In a preemptive move, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reached out to the Pentagon and asked for security assistance. The Pentagon agreed to “provide 400 District of Columbia National Guard (DCNG) personnel and 50 vehicles to support the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia at designated traffic posts.”
The convoy does not intend to enter downtown but will instead flood the highways around the city. Bob Bolus, one of the organizers, said,
“I’m not going to subject myself or anybody else to the whims of the federal government in downtown D.C. I already spoke to the D.C. police department and I’m in communication with them. If he’s willing to give us an escort through D.C., we’ll consider it without arrest…. But we’re not going to subject ourselves to the Gestapo tactics and some of the federal judges in D.C.”
U.S. truckers are following the lead of the Canadian Freedom Convoy, which began in January after the Canadian government began requiring cross-border truckers to either get vaccinated or quarantine for two weeks every time they crossed the border, effectively curtailing their ability to earn a living. Tens of thousands of protesters camped out in Ottawa and shut down several major crossing points between the U.S. and Canada, earning global attention. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to meet with the truckers and then invoked the Emergencies Act to forcibly and violently remove the protesters.
Canadian leaders were sharply criticized by their conservative counterparts in the Canadian government for characterizing the largely working-class truck drivers as racists and anti-Semites, so the People’s Convoy makes very clear that they represent a diverse array of Americans with one aim: freedom. Its website reads:
“We are truckers, moms, students, nurses, doctors, investors, county workers, teachers, cowboys, loggers, engineers, sanitation workers, professors, cashiers, flight attendants, pilots, sales reps, physical therapists. WE ARE fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, married, single, divorced, separated, gay, straight. WE ARE Black, White, Asian, Native American. WE ARE immigrants, natives: WE ARE citizens of the free world … To our elected officials that believe they rule us: YOU work for US. Our constitution was written to provide enough power to act on a national level, but not enough to deprive the people of fundamental rights. The people are prepared to see this challenge through — as we have seen through all challenges to our Freedom in the past. And we will prevail and prosper.”
The group also gave a hearty nod to their Canadian counterparts:
“To our brave and courageous neighbors to the North — our Canadian brothers and sisters who led the charge — we join your call to Freedom with THE PEOPLE’S CONVOY.”
The participants in this convoy hope to bring attention to the concerns of working-class Americans over the negative impact of COVID mandates, restrictions, and government overreach into their personal and working lives. But even as they roll into the D.C. metropolitan area, their concerns and possibly their demands are likely to also turn to fuel prices, which have skyrocketed in recent days and are accelerating towards historic levels in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This convoy so far has been extremely peaceful, patriotic, and optimistic, but they must remain careful of what they do and where they go to ensure they do not give the authorities any license to deploy tyrannical tactics. In a matter of weeks, the Canadian Freedom Convoy went from an inspiring, overwhelmingly peaceful working-class protest movement to the subject of a chilling display of authoritarian zeal as the government instituted martial law and police forces were sent out to crack down on the protesters, freeze their funding and bank accounts, and arrest and publicly perp-walk their leaders.
The United States and Canada are both governed by post-enlightenment principles that are meant to protect the right to assembly and protest. In the U.S., there’s even a long history of trucker convoys protesting the price of gasoline, as well as their working conditions and oppressive federal regulations.
But what does it say that the Canadian iteration of the trucker convoy was ignored and slandered by its own government, which refused to meet with them and field their concerns but rather invoked emergency powers to put an end to their peaceful and lively demonstration? Just weeks later, the American iteration is taking careful steps to avoid its own capital city entirely, knowing their members could easily receive the same treatment as the hundreds of January 6 defendants — the vast majority of whom foolishly, illegally, but non-violently walked around the Capitol Building for 20 minutes, taking selfies and waving Trump flags.
The convoy protesters are right to characterize their cause as being in the defense of freedom as a whole because the people’s right to protest and have their concerns heard by its elected leaders is one of the most important building blocks of a free society. As COVID-19 restrictions have consistently threatened to overturn other sacred liberties — and occasionally succeeded for a time — it is all the more chilling that the right to object to these measures is being so sorely threatened as well.
No member of a free society ought to fear being treated like a terrorist for simply exercising their sacred rights to assemble, demonstrate, and speak against government tyranny — for this is, in itself, tyranny.