The Heard-Mail | by David Rhodes | March 25, 2022
The People’s Convoy bivouacked at the Hagerstown Speedway for the past few weeks is now making a different kind of move besides it’s almost daily caravan of big rigs, campers and cars running to the nation’s capital to protest mandates meant to control COVID-19.
The entire encampment has to vacate the part of the speedway it has occupied since March 3 to make way for Saturday’s first race of the season, and it must leave the facility entirely by April 7, speedway General Manager Lisa Plessinger said Wednesday.
The group began moving Wednesday to another part of the speedway that won’t interfere with the races and plans to stay at the facility until a different base of operations can be found in the area, according to Mike Landis, one of the convoy organizers.
“We’re going to stay here until we find a spot that’s suitable for us that we can all agree on,” he said in a Wednesday interview with The Herald-Mail, adding that the group was considering locations in Virginia that would have easy access to the Capital Beltway.
Nothing had been decided Wednesday, and there was no mention of a move to another location during Friday morning’s livestreamed meeting of convoy participants.
Landis said the group plans to continue its rolling protests into the Washington, D.C., area “until the mission is accomplished” to end the COVID-19 state of emergency declared under the National Emergencies Act in March 2020 by President Donald Trump and extended most recently by President Joe Biden on Feb 18.
A resolution sponsored by Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, to accomplish that passed the U.S. Senate by one vote, but hasn’t come up for consideration in the Democratic-controlled House and faces a threatened veto by Biden, according to Brian Brase, another convoy organizer.
While convoy leaders found support for their cause in meetings with some Republican lawmakers such as U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who came to Hagerstown to lead the convoy on March 10, Brase blamed partisan bickering for inaction on what should be a nonpartisan issue.
“When the only ones that are meeting with you are Republicans, it automatically makes it like it’s a right-leaning movement,” he said. “And while there might be a majority of right-leaning individuals (in the convoy), it’s not a right or left issue.
“This is an American issue.”
He and Landis stated that convoy participants come from all belief systems and walks of life, including Biden supporters and people who are vaccinated and wearing masks.
Speakers at convoy meetings and rallies as well as participants themselves have repeatedly stated that they are trying to get the message to government officials that they oppose mandates.
Those gatherings often end with the crowd chanting in unison that those officials must remember “that they work for us.”
Participants state they are committed to their cause.
Brase and Landis said one man quit his job and cashed in his 401(k) to stay with the convoy. Others, such as owner-operator truckers, are tapping into their savings to meet personal expenses such as truck and mortgage payments while they’re with the convoy and not working.
“Freedom takes sacrifice,” Brase said. “It doesn’t have to be the blood of patriots to water the tree.”
Who is funding the convoy’s activities?
Meanwhile, donations keep the convoy rolling, organizers said.
Monetary donations made to the convoy’s website at https://thepeoplesconvoy.org are paying for diesel fuel purchased locally at the AC&T truck stop on Hopewell Road, Brase said.
“I’m going tomorrow to pick up 360 dozen eggs donated by a local egg farm for us for breakfast,” Landis said Wednesday.
A commissary set up under the speedway grandstand has provided donated groceries, toiletries, clothing and other items free of charge for participants.
Volunteers have been cooking free hot meals in the facility’s concession stand.
Will there be racing at the Hagerstown speedway?
The Northeast Convoy began rolling into the speedway on March 3, joined by The People’s Convoy that arrived from California the next day. The group has occupied the main parking area at the front and west side of the speedway at the main entrance since.
General Manager Lisa Plessinger said Wednesday that that was no problem while the speedway was still closed for the season, but with Saturday’s opening day race, the convoy will have to move everything to a roughly equal-sized space at the other side of the speedway that isn’t needed just yet.
The convoy will also have to occupy that space to accommodate a race scheduled for April 2 if it hasn’t found an alternate location to move to by then.
The convoy must vacate entirely by April 7, Plessinger said, so the speedway staff has time to prepare for when the entire 56-acre facility is needed for the Lucas Oil Late Models race scheduled for April 9.
Plessinger said earlier that she wasn’t charging the convoy rent, and was only being reimbursed for expenses such as gravel to fill potholes in the main parking area caused by the constant movement of vehicles.
Reports of convoy’s presence at the speedway streamed to a broad audience on the internet might promote the facility, she said, which this year is marking it’s 75th anniversary.
“There’s a good possibility that we’re reaching people who aren’t racing fans to begin with would be some new faces in the crowd,” she said. “So that would be a good thing.”