The founder of the fundraising arm of the People’s Convoy says trucking organizers may “wrap up the federal convoy this week” amid dwindling donations to protest government mandates regarding COVID-19 and other political issues.
It’s been 19 days since a group of truckers — along with a caravan of mainly right-leaning supporters packed in RVs, pickup trucks and motorcycles — converged upon a dirt-track speedway in Hagerstown, Maryland, to slow roll and loop around the Washington, D.C. Beltway.
The group, which has garnered meetings with several Republican lawmakers — including a ride-along with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — has enough money left to continue for about a week, Christopher Marston, founder of the American Foundation for Civil Liberties and Freedoms (AFCLF), told FreightWaves.
“[It’s] not a lot, but the media has slowed down a ton and the truckers are not making the ask for money the way they should, despite training and guidance,” Marston said.
It’s unclear exactly how many trucks are participating in the daily convoys to the Beltway, which have caused significant traffic delays and a few crashes, as some had to leave because of work obligations, while others left for a few days and rejoined the group. However, hundreds of supporters have turned out to feed the truckers, talk politics and discuss strategies to get around police barricades blocking exit ramps into downtown D.C.
Since an allied group of protesters launched their cross-country trek from California to Washington on Feb. 23, the AFCLF has collected more than $1.7 million on the truckers’ behalf.
Marston said future convoy efforts may “become a state-level thing.”
The AFCLF has been working directly with the People’s Convoy co-organizers, including Brian Brase, Marcus Summers and Mike Landis, to manage donations and pay day-to-day expenses, Marston said.
After convoy organizers initially stated they wouldn’t be accepting donations, the group changed its mind shortly before leaving California.
In a previous interview with FreightWaves, Marston compared the People’s Convoy to “expense whack-a-mole.”
“This movement wasn’t nine months in the planning, this was weeks in the planning of it,” Marston said. “It’s extremely dynamic and not the kind of thing you just make a policy manual over and just follow the rules.”
He said the AFCLF is a multidisciplinary civil liberties organization, “which means you’ve got these law groups, and they’re great if you just want to sue everybody, then you got some people that are focused on lobbying and that’s great if you need to lobby people.”
AFCLF works with other organizations as well.
“We have values-aligned vendors that are non-cancel culture participants and we have a values-aligned commercial bank partner and we’re taking donations directly,” Marston said.
After FreightWaves broke the story about AFCLF Executive Director Pamela Milacek, for whom there are active arrest warrants for probation violations related to her pleading guilty in two cases involving fraud and exploitation of an elderly person, the AFCLF posted its financial stewardship policy on the People’s Convoy page.
“All such monies are present and accounted for — and those monies are regularly being disbursed to cover costs associated with the convoy. Ledgers are being kept, and all financial transactions are being handled in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles,” according to the AFCLF statement.
Convoy organizers “have been keeping a safe and ledger onsite for cash donations and using [the money] to reimburse receipts of smaller denominations,” Marston said.
Some truck drivers say they were under the impression that they would be reimbursed for all the fuel mileage and other expenses they incurred to participate in the People’s Convoy. However, the AFCLF updated its policy to reflect “that fuel receipts must match the date of the convoy roll, must be original receipt (no photocopies or card statements), must be turned in on the same date, and must be from AC&T [Travel Center] in Hagerstown.”
“We’ve pulled a lot of resources to get fuel donated, also got a ton of cash donations, which were used to help pay for fuel on the spot,” Marston said.
However, he said on Monday that AC&T “has not donated anything to our knowledge.”
One trucker, who didn’t want to be named for fear of retaliation, told FreightWaves he hasn’t worked in nearly a month as freight rates — and diesel prices — continue to soar. He said turning down loads has put a significant financial strain on his one-truck operation, as well as on his family.
However, the owner-operator said it will be worth the financial sacrifice to “wake up D.C.”
“If we don’t stand up for freedom, who will do it for us?” he said.
Some truckers, including John Bigard, who is livestreaming the People’s Convoy on his YouTube channel, OTR Survival, have set up Cash App accounts to supplement their incomes as they turn down freight to participate in the protest.
During his recent livestream, Bigard was seen jumping out of his vehicle and banging on the driver’s side window of a silver car that appeared to merge in front of him on U.S. Highway 395 as the convoy headed toward the Beltway, calling the driver a “f—— idiot.”
The group’s message has also changed since the People’s Convoy launched, drawing on the intense media attention gained by defiant Canadian truck drivers and other groups that were part of the Freedom Convoy, as President Joe Biden and many Democratic governors have eliminated mask mandates.
Marston said in an earlier FreightWaves story that the truckers’ fight isn’t over once they reach the Washington area.
“These truckers are not on the road just to do a rah-rah convoy,” he said. “They’re on the road to get real action and demand accountability from our government.”
However, it remains unclear what action the convoy hopes to achieve.
It appears another group, the Great American Patriot Project, is soliciting “gas sponsors to keep the convoy going,” according to its website.
The group, which states it is the official website of the American Truckers Freedom Fund, asks supporters to “fill a freedom trucker’s gas tank!”
Attorney Christopher M. Woodfin, listed as the registered agent for the Great American Patriot Project, told FreightWaves he wasn’t able to speak about “attorney-client stuff without the organization’s approval.”
Woodfin said the Great American Patriot PAC is a registered political action committee with the Federal Election Commission so typically the only officer you see is the treasurer, the one who actually files the paperwork.
Marston said he was unaware of the Great American Patriot PAC’s financial involvement in the People’s Convoy.
“Nobody has reached out to coordinate support and I wish they did,” Marston said.
As of publication time, the press contact with the Great American Patriot Project had not returned FreightWaves’ request seeking comment.
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