People's Convoy Fracturing Under Conspiracy Theories, Grifts And Poor Planning: Report

Organizers say the movement is growing, but so is confusion and distrust

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Demonstrators prepare to depart Hagerstown Speedway in Hagerstown, Maryland, on March 7, 2022, during “The People’s Convoy” event. - The convoy has called on U.S. President Joe Biden to end vaccine and other COVID-19 pandemic mandates while modeling themselves after Canadian drivers who had occupied the center of Ottawa in a similar protest.
Demonstrators prepare to depart Hagerstown Speedway in Hagerstown, Maryland, on March 7, 2022, during “The People’s Convoy” event. - The convoy has called on U.S. President Joe Biden to end vaccine and other COVID-19 pandemic mandates while modeling themselves after Canadian drivers who had occupied the center of Ottawa in a similar protest.
Photo: Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images (Getty Images)

The People’s Convoy stayed parked at its headquarters at the Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland Wednesday after calling off its third day of attempting to slow down traffic on the Washington Beltway due to light rain. But as Hawaii becomes the last state to drop its mask mandates this week, many are wondering, what is the point of this protest? It seems more and more the answer is: to grift, what else?

With everything going on in the world, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that the People’s Convoy is still a thing. A lot has happened, from meeting with the most camera-hungry Republican congressional members, to revelations that the nonprofit running the donation campaign has a convict fraudster on the lam from the law as an executive director.

Luckily, the excellent reporting work on the movement goes on at the Daily Beast. The outlet is wondering, along with more than a few of the drivers participating in the convoy, just what the nearly $2 million in donations is going towards. While some participants and donors want the protest to move into D.C. proper and shut the city down like the Freedom Convoy did in Ottawa (note that this tactic was ineffective. Even with the shut down of the city, the Freedom Convoy did not achieve its aims) others still are wondering if the whole thing isn’t a psych op to get them “Jan. 6ed”:

At a Monday group meeting conducted from the flatbed of a truck, disappointed truckers vented about lead organizer Brian Brase, adding that if they couldn’t take action at the moment, they should still do something, even if they have to “save it for last.”

That sentiment has foreboding undertones in Washington, and some truckers already suspect a Jan. 6 setup is playing out before their eyes.

Organizer Mike Landis accused right-wing conspiracy theorist Jacob Wohl of being a “paid actor” attempting to sucker the Convoy into a trap, after Wohl urged them to act more boldly in D.C. while offering any trucker that does such $200.

Two Landis associates, owner-operators Allen and Bonnie Kelly of Pennsylvania, who have helped him organize previous D.C. convoys, also expressed baseless paranoia associated with the Jan. 6 rally—which they attended.

Asked Wednesday how the People’s Convoy compared to the spirit of the riot, Bonnie Kelly said, “You mean being set up by the FBI and the CIA?”

The energy at Hagerstown, Kelly told The Daily Beast, was different, purified of liberal “bad actors” that in her telling were behind all the trouble on Jan. 6. (There is no evidence to support any of Kelly’s claims about the riot.) Still, The People’s Convoy, she said, was in for the “long haul.”

Of course, not all of them are built to last.

Despite the promise of remuneration, select drivers said they did not expect returns, and had written the costs off ahead of time.

Jim Worthington, a convoy trucker from Buffalo, New York, told The Daily Beast on Sunday that he brought five trucks with him to Hagerstown. However, he said he would have to get back to work this week, noting that the lost time had already cost him $50,000 in invoices.

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With fuel costs hitting record highs, more than a few truckers have started to grumble about where the money is. One organizer had the chutzpah to wander the dirt track after Wednesday’s canceled demonstration asking for donations from the protesters for “volunteers” in “support vehicles.” This tactic did little to inspire coincidence in the participants. The donation tracker on the protest’s website has been frozen at $1,656,876 since Saturday, so there’s no knowing how much has actually been donated since then.

Even trucking lobbyists who support the movement don’t see it lasting long due to the fickle nature of independent truckers, from the Daily Beast:

Kevin Steichen, former president and co-founder of the Landis-led lobbying group United States Transportation Alliance, could not afford to join the People’s Convoy, but warned that the tightly knit trucking community harbored its own toxicity—and that the convoy could be its own undoing.

“The convoy’s great and what they’re doing is awesome,” Steichen told The Daily Beast. “I’ll tell you something, though: This industry is fickle, fickle people. Trust issues are huge.”

“There’s been some shady shit that goes on. People come in, and they want to do it for personal gain,” Stechen said, acknowledging rumors of financial mischief and a simmering impatience among convoy members ready for action.

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Previous attempts at slowing down traffic on the Beltway by the People’s Convoy have mostly been a wash. Twice the convoy broke up due to the already heavy traffic of workers commuting to and from D.C.

All of the reporting done by Zachary Petrizzo and his colleagues is great, but this report in particular is worth your time.