Convoy of Crackpots: Far-right conspiracy groups set sights on Canada-inspired blockade of U.S. Capitol
The effort to launch an American “freedom convoy,” inspired by the Canadian truckers who have shut down parts of Ottawa for several weeks initially to protest vaccine mandates, is taking shape in a somewhat haphazard fashion.
At least three national organizations, and a constellation of regional ones, say they will depart for Washington in early March. One proposed convoy aims to leave from Fresno in California on March 2, taking the I-10 interstate straight to the capital, where it would arrive on March 6.
“What brings us here tonight is unity, solidarity and a mindset of America,” the group’s lead organizer, Kip Coltrin, said on a conference call last week. “Obviously we have a grievance to address with our politicians, our people in Washington.”
Another organization, which calls itself the “People’s Convoy,” also plans to depart in the first week of March from California. That effort is being backed by Freedom Fighter Nation, a far-right conspiracy group led by lawyer Leigh Dundas.
A third group, “Convoy 4 Freedom,” is advertising its own convoy, although its size and organization appears modest in comparison with the others.
The loose-knit nature of the impending protest makes it difficult to determine how many people could join, their goals and the potential for disruptions.
In a Facebook video, Coltrin said he has been asked just how many participants he expects to join him on the trek to Washington. “My response was to begin laughing – respectfully, of course – chuckle and say, ‘I don’t know.’” But, he insisted: “It’s going to happen. There’s no maybes.”
Around the world, convoys sympathetic to the Canadian truckers, who occupied the area in front of the parliament buildings and attracted thousands of additional protesters, have formed with varying degrees of success.
The motivation of the U.S. convoys appears as fragmented as its organization. Coltrin has said his group’s protest will be about everything from the cross-border vaccine mandates for truckers, to rising inflation, to their erroneous belief that electoral fraud cost Donald Trump his re-election. “Remember we are not only up against the government, but a $200tn big pharma industry and all its investors,” he said. Coltrin has repeatedly shared anti-vaccine misinformation on Facebook, including from the QAnon influencer Praying Medic.
Coltrin said in another video: “Patriot Guard Riders, our veterans, come on guys. Three Percenters: come on, guys. Oath Keepers: come on guys.” The FBI has laid charges against a number of members of the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers, including its leader, for their role in the January 6 insurrection. Several participants on the conference call said they were present at the Capitol that day.
The “People’s Convoy” is led by Dundas, who on January 6 alleged that American officials were working with foreign governments to rig the U.S. election against Trump, and that “we would be well within our rights to take them out back and shoot them or hang them”.
Despite that, she was invited by Senator Ron Johnson to speak before the Senate last month to give “a second opinion” about COVID-19.
Dozens of social media pages have popped up to advertise and organize the American convoys, especially on rightwing social media platforms such as Gettr and Gab. One Facebook group intended to organize logistics and support boasts nearly 25,000 members.
On February 11, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the Department of Homeland Security is actively monitoring the possibility of a Washington-bound convoy.
“They’re taking all necessary steps to ensure that the convoy does not disrupt lawful trade and transportation or interfere with federal government and law enforcement operations,” Psaki said.