HAGERSTOWN, Md. — The far-right caravan that began 10 days ago in southern California rumbled into Maryland on Friday evening, poised to paralyze traffic around the Interstate-495 Capital Beltway encircling Washington, DC.
Tractor-trailer rigs, supplying the working-class symbolism of the anti-government campaign, mixed with recreational vehicles, pickup trucks and SUVs as they clogged a two-lane highway leading to the Hagerstown Speedway, horns blasting and flags whipping in the chilly air. Supporters lined the road in a scene reminiscent of a tailgate party, waving American and Canadian flags. One man held a homemade sign reading “F*ck NWO.”
A giant American flag was draped between two cranes anchored by rigs near the entrance of the speedway, as a younger contingent walked into the grounds, blowing a shofar and chanting, “Let’s go, Brandon.”
Dressed in a heavy flannel shirt and blue jeans, organizer Brian Brase addressed hundreds of supporters from a flatbed trailer parked in front of the speedway.
“It is time to remind the American government and the governments around the world that….” He trailed off, allowing the crowd to finish his sentence in unison: “They. Work. For. Us.”
“They work for us,” Brase said. “It’s time to remind them of that fact. We are in their backyard right now. We have crossed this country, and we have parked our big-old butts right here in Hagerstown, Maryland forty miles from that glorious Beltway.
“Oh, we’re gonna do something,” Brase said in response to someone yelling from the crowd. “What that is has yet to be determined. Please be patient.”
Later, Brase mentioned that on Saturday there would be “a big old rally” at about 7 p.m.
People's Convoy organizer Brian Brase www.youtube.com
Josh Yoder, an airline pilot, reiterated a pledge made by organizers from the start — that the convoy will remain nonviolent and law-abiding.
“This is our 1776, and this time there will be no bloodshed,” Yoder said. “We are peaceful. We are law-abiding. But we are strong. We are going to stand up. We are going to stand together. And we are going to put this government in their place. And we are going to remind them that it is the people of this country that are the government.”
One speaker estimated there were 10,000 vehicles trying to get into the speedway grounds, and after the rally, Brase complained that there were truckers still sitting on Interstate 81. It was hard to gauge the size of the convoys, with vehicles backed up two miles outside the speedway. At 10 p.m., the line was still a half-mile long. As new drivers were coming in, others were leaving to make room.
Brase, a professional truck driver, acknowledged that truckers are only one part of the convoy.
“Remember, this isn’t a trucker convoy,” he said. “This is a people’s convoy. There are cars. There are motor homes. There are campers. There are motorcycles. Shit, if you’ve got a golf cart and can keep up, bring it on.”
The convoy is arriving in DC as most states across the country are lifting masking requirements, but speakers at the rally on Friday insisted that President Biden to terminate the national emergency declaration for the COVID pandemic, something the president has said he is not willing to do. Convoy participants also condemned vaccine mandates.
“I can’t personally tell you whether the vaccine is good or bad,” Brase said. “But what I can tell you as an American — as a God-fearing American, as a human being that believes in my God-given rights — that no one has the authority over me to tell me that I must take a vaccine.”
Absent specific calls for disruption from the organizers, some supporters in the crowd suggested they have minimal expectations when the convoy reaches the beltway on Saturday.
“I wish they were doing like Canada and taking their rigs to DC and parking them in the streets and blowing horns,” said Joe Cotrill, a supporter from Hagerstown. “Driving around the Beltway — they don’t care about that. We need to interrupt their way of life. They’re interrupting our way of life through inflation.”