Writer Takes To The Road To Visit People’s Convoy
It’s a long road from Randolph to Hagerstown, Md.
My trip actually began when the Canadian Truckers Freedom Convoy started to roll toward Ottawa in January. When U.S. truckers started talking about organizing a convoy in solidary a few weeks later, I began paying attention and following them on Facebook. The movement would be for all Americans, not left, not right, but for the freedom of all. When the plan was complete, the truckers and anyone else who wished to join them, were to leave California and drive across the country to the nation’s capital. The purpose of the dads, moms, grandparents, sons and daughters making up the group was to see the Emergency Powers Act come to an end and to have vaccine mandates lifted.
Truckers started their trip from California on February 22. A few days before the convoy came through Chautauqua County from the west coast, my husband and I left off nearly 15 pounds of small containers of shampoos, conditioner and lotion and small bars of soap we had collected from our travels over the past few years. We also stood on an overpass over I-90 near Erie waving flags with about 30 others, as the Buffalo/Erie branch passed underneath. I had wanted to become more involved and after our friends, Todd and Wanda Johnson of Lottsville (PA) Milling Company, who were part of the local convoy, spoke highly of the other drivers and the experience at the encampment, I decided to drive to Maryland to see for myself.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the Hagerstown Speedway. I witnessed caring and unity in the community that had set up at the speedway. Many volunteers cooked and served breakfast, emptied trash receptacles, organized donations and filled in wherever they saw a need. A team of mechanics with tools and a hook truck took care of maintenance and repair of vehicles. People with backgrounds in law enforcement or security assisted a paid security company which supplied explosive-sniffing canines and 24-hour drones. I met a man who had been giving free haircuts for hours on end day after day, a woman who was making 12 containers of fudge on a camp stove and a team of two men who were overseeing a roasting pig for nearly 24 hours.
A third man, Randy Barber, a logger from Randolph, who had been part of the original Erie convoy and who after staying a week, decided he would return to Hagerstown with the makings for a pig roast. When the Johnsons heard his plan, they volunteered side dishes, condiments, rolls and paper products. Barber enlisted the pig roasting skills and roaster of his friends Jerry Adamic, also from the Randolph area and Kyle Liskow of Great Valley. Adamic and Liskow towed the roaster, while Barber towed a trailer filled with wood, food and paper supplies. By adding pork butt and several pounds of chicken quarters, the group prepared enough food to feed 1,000 people.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
On February 22, a few trucks began gathering at a stadium in the middle of the desert outside Adelanto, Calif., but by mid-morning the next day, there were hundreds of semis, campers, delivery vans, pick-up trucks, cars and motorcycles. A large group of well-wishers, dressed in red, white and blue attire, passed out candy, baked goods, bottles of water and encouraging notes, many written by children. Cases of donated paper products, microwaveable food, water and personal products were loaded into a trailer. After organizers spoke to the excited crowd of freedom-seekers, Amazing Grace was sung and a prayer was said, 700 flag-decked vehicles, known as the People’s Convoy, left Adelanto Stadium on Wednesday, February 23. Josh Yoder of Freedom Flyers was in one of the vehicles representing airline pilots.
Law enforcement was informed in advance of the routes to be taken and which ramps would be used. Meetings were held each morning where drivers learned the routes and reminded that traffic rules were to be followed, law enforcement respected and nothing, not even a cigarette butt, was to be left behind.
Drivers were overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from the American people. Almost every overpass and ramp was full of flag-waving patriots, who also stood along the sides of the Interstate. A few states furnished police escorts, a Navajo leader prayed with them and mayors invited them to stop.
“(When we stopped in Amarillo, Texas) I couldn’t see any grass. There were so many faces that you couldn’t see the faces. It was like a blur,” says Brian Brase, one of several People’s Convoy organizers. “Oklahoma police told us we were 7,000 vehicles long and stretched for 30 miles.”
At one of the stops, the grandson of a World War II casualty approached Mike Landis, another Convoy organizer, and presented him with the flag from his grandfather’s casket. His mother wanted the 48-star flag to be flown on the truck and taken to DC because her father had lost his life fighting for America’s freedoms. When Landis explained that the flag would be tattered by the time it arrived, the son said his family knew this and asked that it be returned to them in whatever condition it was left in. The trucker left the convoy to have a pole made in order to display the flag. Both Landis and Brase became very emotional when they told the story.
After many stops and rallies along the way and connecting with the other convoy offshoots, People’s Convoy arrived at the Hagerstown Speedway in Hagerstown, MD on Friday night, March 4. The local schools dismissed students two and one-half hours early in anticipation of added traffic. Saturday was a day of rest and a time when locals were invited to visit the Speedway, speak with Convoy participants and ask questions. On Sunday the vehicles drove single file on Capital Beltway, Route I-495. The next day they removed the trailers and drove in two lanes, which they continued to do for a few days until they began mixing it up with cars, motorcycles and campers first and the semi tractors following. Some days they broke into smaller convoys, following the same route. A lead truck always guides the way.
After several days of driving the Beltway, the group began attempting to go into the District of Columbia, but met with some resistance from law enforcement, even though organizers had spoken with their superior communicating they were law-abiding citizens, exercising their First Amendment rights. In spite of the resistance, some trucks and multiple other vehicles have been able to enter the city. Metro Police have been sympathetic, but are doing what they are told.
Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), Congressman Lou Correa (D-CA) and Representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and a few others have met with representatives of People’s Convoy. The day after meeting with the group, Senator Cruz rode from the Speedway to the Capitol Building with Mike Landis in the lead truck carrying the World War II flag. The senator held a press conference afterward.
One of the truckers is an 82-year old man, who claims he has driven over 10 million miles. His thirty-year old Ford LTL9000 with a Peterbilt sleeper has 5 million miles on it. Each week some of the drivers return to their home bases, either permanently or temporarily while they take care of their affairs or switch out a vehicle. New drivers or groups of drivers arrive almost daily. Several smaller convoys have arrived over the past two weeks.
The truckers have been warmly received by the people of the Hagerstown area. Residents have donated meat, staples, produce, coffee, water and firewood. When very cold temperatures accompanied by snow occurred, the locals brought blankets and warm clothing. A dumpster company collects the trash at no cost to the group.
Several speakers, including Dr. Paul Alexander and Dr. Robert Malone, have graced the flatbed trailer the convoy uses for a stage. One morning during the group meeting a plane left off a parachutist connected to a large flag. The people on the ground sang the National Anthem as the flag slowly drifted and eventually landed on the makeshift stage.
In the beginning the People’s Convoy got very little media coverage.
“It started biased until they saw what the movement is,” says Brase.
Since then, he has been interviewed by Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Dan Bongino, The Washington Post, New York Times, the LA Times and most recently, Newsmax.
During last Saturday’s evening meeting, Mike Landis informed the group that California state legislature was about to vote on “the most invasive COVID-19 legislation yet” and then proceeded to read the ten bills proposed. If the legislation passes, laws will be made that will make all state residents, including children, legally bound under criminal penalty of law to give up their basic medical freedoms in order to participate in society. Although convoy participants have not met all of their goals in DC, they voted unanimously to return to California. Therefore, on March 30 they headed toward California with the intention of spreading awareness about the bills, but not before they attended Senator Doug Mastriano’s (R-PA) Medical Freedom Rally in Pennsylvania’s state capital, vowing to return to the nation’s capital to finish what they have started.
“We want the Emergency Powers Act repealed and the Constitution back,” says Landis.
The message veteran Brian Brase leaves for the American people is “Always speak the truth and always speak from your heart. Start holding all politicians accountable, right and left, and never vote along straight party lines.”