Truckers stop in Missouri on their long-haul freedom convoy | Politics






United States flags fly in the wind as the popular convoy stops in St. Robert, Mo., Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. The convoy travels from the West Coast to the East Coast to protest vaccination mandates . Photo by Colter Peterson, cpeterson@post-dispatch.com


Colter Peterson


ST. ROBERT, Mo. – As someone from the San Francisco Bay Area who voted for Donald Trump and was not vaccinated against COVID-19, Marianne Pedley-McClintick knows what it’s like to to be in the minority.

Especially when it came to doing her old job as a telehealth nurse for Kaiser Foundation hospitals.

“I refused to take the hit and they fired me,” said Pedley-McClintick, 69.

The experience ultimately motivated her to travel to Southern California to cheer on the people’s convoy as it set off Wednesday for a cross-country trip to protest government excesses.

She didn’t count on joining the procession of big rigs for more than a day. But she said the energy of the movement – people shouting and waving flags from overpasses and along freeways – was captivating and alluring. Six days and 1,700 miles later, she and her two small dogs traveled to south-central Missouri, where she felt right at home.

“I’m so overwhelmed by the experience,” she said. “I am engaged now. I am fully committed. It’s so nice to be around like-minded people. It really is beyond the vaccine. It’s really fighting for the soul of democracy, for the soul of America as we knew it.

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The People’s Convoy is one of many trucker-led protests, and likely the largest, heading to the Washington, DC area this week. Not all succeeded. The “Freedom Convoy USA 2022”, which left California on Friday and was due to pass through Kansas City on Sunday evening, instead disbanded early Saturday morning as only five trucks showed up in Las Vegas.

The people’s convoy is presented as a “peaceful”, “unified” and “freedom-loving” movement that seeks to end the state of emergency involving COVID-19 mandates. It is not known how many vehicles are part of the convoy. Some said it stretched for miles, with gaps in between. There were drivers for the long journey, others just for the moment, during the day or in the afternoon.

At a rally stop in St. Robert on Monday, about 250 people gathered in front of a flatbed trailer to sing the national anthem and listen to some speeches before trucks, RVs and cars moved towards ballast. The convoy, which was to stop overnight in Cuba, Missouri, is expected to pass through St. Louis on Tuesday.

Leigh Dundas, a California lawyer and activist helping lead the convoy, told the crowd of “two years of hell” because of the closures.

“We are all essential,” she said to cheers. “And we have to get back to working and making this capitalist country what it has always been – a wonderful, God-loving, God-fearing economy that has just begun.”

She said the convoy is “100% committed” to carrying her message of “peace and unity” across the country so elected leaders can hear her better. She congratulated the people in the crowd and many others along the way who had supported them.

While American flags and Trump banners were all the rage (and at least one flag associated with the far-right “Three Percent” militia), Dundas pointed out that there were also gay pride flags in the mixed. She said there were fans of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, as well as “triple” vaccinated people who view the terms as “un-American.”

“I’ve only seen Americans praising these truckers on the road,” she told them.

Brian Brase said he was one of about 30 truckers who helped organize the convoy with organizations that “believe the message”. He said they are not “anti-vaxxers”, but rather strong supporters of freedom.

“It’s not a leftist problem. It’s not a good question. It’s an American problem,” Brase, 37, said to cheers. “Not only have we seen multiple violations of our constitutional rights, but globally we have seen violations of our God given rights Governments around the world are violating your human rights.

Brase, a “God-fearing, red-white, blue-blooded American” from Ohio, said he was taught to believe in democracy. He always does.

“It’s time to remind our government who they are working for,” he said to applause.

Eric Greitens, who resigned in 2018 following a scandal as governor of Missouri, would also like to convey this message to Washington. He is one of several GOP candidates in a crowded race for the US Senate. In a speech at the rally, he strayed from the theme of unity.

“You know what scares the left? he immediately asked the crowd. “You do. You know what scares bullies? You do. You know what scares the mainstream media with all their lies? We do. Let everyone know we are here to take back our country.”

When asked in an interview about his speech, Greitens said the left, which tries to silence people, is beyond party affiliation.

“We talk about leftism as a tyrannical movement,” he said. “And that’s why all these people are here. It is freedom against tyranny.

Ruben Carrion, 63, said in an interview that he was there for future generations. He came from Florida to join the convoy in St. Robert.

“It’s an American dream,” he said of driving his own truck, an orange Peterbilt 379 diesel with 3 million miles.

He says he grew up in a cabin in Panama without electricity. He started by cutting sugar cane, pulling a cart with cattle. He was a trucker in the United States for about four decades.

He said he didn’t like that his wife, who works at a county courthouse, had to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“She had no choice,” he said.

That’s part of the reason he likes driving a truck, but increasing government regulations don’t go down well. He said the country was going “very left-wing”.

He said he had three weeks to spend with the convoy. Then he has to get back to work.

“I’m nobody,” he said of the effort. “I’m just a trucker.”

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