JAMAICA, Virginia – They arrived later than expected, but when the convoy of large trucks, RVs and cars turned into the Virginia Motor Speedway parking lot off US 17 early Sunday afternoon, they drew cheers, shouts and shouts from several hundred people. who turned out to show their support for the “Freedom Convoy” movement bound for Washington, D.C.
Truckers, in turn, honked their horns in recognition as they drove in two lines and came to a stop. The messages adorning their trucks were unequivocal: “End of all terms”; “Awake but not awake;” “My body my choice” “I am for constitutional correctness;” and “Think while it’s still legal.”
There were also dozens of American flags, and a few Canadian flags as well, as the truckers and supporters who greeted them expressed a common theme: ending COVID-19 mandates of all types, including security requirements. vaccines and masks. Aside from the issues surrounding the waning of the pandemic, attendees — some of whom brought their children and dogs — said they spoke for good old American freedom.
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A few pro-Trump and anti-Biden banners flew, but the event was mostly not overtly political. There were no displays of anger and the presence of law enforcement seemed non-existent.
“We demand freedom,” said Bill Berger, who helped coordinate Sunday’s event which included a live band on a makeshift stage and food souvenir vendors. “We’re not against the vaccine. We’re not against the mask – if you want to wear them, that’s your choice. We just don’t want to be told we have to. And we don’t. never want to happen again – for our children and our grandchildren – because those two years were horrible.”
Several convoy groups led by American truckers are heading for the nation’s capital, and the one that stopped at the freeway on Sunday – called the American Freedom Convoy – was led by Alan Baguley of Dennard, Ark. The convoy made its way from Lee-Salut Travel Plaza to Lexington, where it stopped Saturday night.
“That convoy started March 1 in Dallas, went all the way to Oklahoma and then to Little Rock, where they picked me up,” Baguley said. “We’re going to DC but we’re not going to federal property. We’re going to be peaceful protesters.”
“We are the voice of everyone here,” Baguley added. “There’s a huge amount of support on the motorways, with cars passing us all day with thumbs up and just honking their horns [in favor of the movement]. I haven’t seen this many patriotic reactions since 9/11 – Americans coming together.”
Reports indicate that several groups of individual convoys are heading to DC, and they are following the lead of Canada’s “freedom convoy” – protesters who in late January spent three weeks demonstrating against COIVD-19 mandates, crippling three US border crossings and downtown Ottawa.
“We are here to support freedom and move away from these mandates, especially vaccination mandates,” said Jason Friedlan, who arrived hours before the convoy arrived on the highway. A faulty water pump on one of the trucks was apparently responsible for the delay. “Everyone I work with [took] the vaccine and they’ve all had COVID since they got it. I had COVID, I was sick for a day.”
“We just think people should be free to do whatever they want without the government interfering with us,” he added. “What truckers have done – in Canada, fighting there – and what they’re doing here is really amazing.”
Friedlan’s friend, who declined to be named because she feared being penalized by her employer, said she was given an ultimatum: get the shot or be fired. She complied, as “I was unable to fight back”.
“I just feel very, very, very violated to hear that you’re going to get fired if you don’t get stung,” she said. “That’s why I’m here. That’s what this convoy is about.”
Brian Tidball, a former Chesterfield County resident who now lives in Middlesex County, said he was pro-vaccine but very anti-mandate, and he ran on Sunday “because I support freedom of expression, freedom of expression”.
Bill Bohannon, who drove his semi-tractor to the event outside the convoy, said he thought the convoys were a “wake-up call”.
“The people who are here, they don’t believe the government,” he said. “Because the government has been lying to them for how many years. It’s a constant. I just can’t believe some of the [stuff] I read. It’s just a weird time… right now to be alive. But I think it will turn around.”
After turning off the freeway, the truckers plan to eventually arrive in the DC area, where representatives plan to meet with members of Congress this week, Berger said.
“We need to stay off federal property,” Baguley said. “They must come to us, because we are peaceful protesters. We must all come together on neutral territory – come together as one people.”