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While the main American copycat of the Canadian anti-mandate “Freedom Convoy” protest gets ready to head east from inland California on Wednesday, midwestern supporters organized multiple events to prepare for the conspiracy-fueled event this past weekend.
In Round Lake Beach, Illinois on Sunday, organizers with the self-proclaimed Illinois chapter of the “People’s Convoy” gathered in an abandoned KMart parking lot before rolling out to Schaumburg, IL for a supply drive. This came on the heels of a meet-and-greet for Wisconsin and Illinois activists at a Port Barrington, IL bar on Saturday night.
“The People’s Convoy” is styled after the Ottawa occupation that recently ended in mass arrests and financial and property seizures. 76 vehicles were towed from the Canadian capital, and millions of dollars in assets frozen. While the protest has been marketed as an organic workers’ uprising, a majority of Canadian truckers and their advocacy groups have distanced themselves from the occupation movement.
Alternately labeling themselves online as both “Freedom Convoy” and “The People’s Convoy,” members of the corn-fed fleet drove 30 miles through northwest suburban Illinois, honking and blocking traffic along the way.
Upon arriving in Schaumburg, the convoy of around a dozen vehicles parked at a site where ongoing right-wing gatherings known as “Freedom Rallies” are held every Sunday afternoon.
These regular meetings have served as a watering hole for more militant Proud Boys and accused Capitol rioters to mingle with anti-vaccine and anti-mandate activists.
Earlier this month, researchers and reporters found that foreign content mills were initially responsible for the rapid proliferation of convoy organizing groups online. This style of astroturfing grassroots protests has become a defining characteristic of reactionary right-wing movements in the U.S.
Now, however, the organizing has moved into the real world.
In videos posted on social media to the Facebook group “Illinois Patriots United,” organizers can also be seen giving speeches on Saturday evening at Port Barrington bar The Broken Oar.
In the videos, two of the organizers identify themselves as Charles (Chuck) Erickson of Antioch, Illinois and William Fisher of Merrill, Wisconsin.
After mentioning plans to potentially “circle” the Wisconsin state capitol of Madison at some point along the Wisconsin convoy route, Fisher, who operates a tree trimming and removal service with his wife, boasts about an extended stop in Indianapolis.
“Indy is gonna have a two or three day event,” he says. “Hopefully they’re gonna get it on the speedway. If they can get it on the speedway, then we’re safe.”
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not, to LCRW’s knowledge, ever open for public demonstrations.
Researchers have noted dozens of maps and potential routes circulating online for the nationwide protest. The official “People’s Convoy” website now includes details for a route with planned overnight stays in Indianapolis on March 1 and 2.
White House security officials recently announced that workers will be reinstalling protective fencing in anticipation of the convoy’s arrival. This is partly in response to initial reports of the protest reaching Washington, D.C. in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address.
“People’s Convoy will not be in D.C. streets, the city,” Fisher says in the video. “We are gonna wait, and just play it by ear.”
Organizers also solicited donations from supporters and tavern patrons. They publicly noted ongoing confusion about the number of breakaway groups on social media that appear to be organizing their own convoys, insisting that their group is solely associated with the national “People’s Convoy” team.
They also promised the release of more official dates and stops in upcoming days.
“All of this is going to D.C. So it doesn’t matter if you’re three days behind or three days ahead. We’re all going.”
Canadian, Israeli and Polish flags were waved at the Schaumburg rally. Approximately 100 demonstrators gathered to cheer speeches condemning COVID-19 vaccine mandates as well as Black Lives Matter activists and antifa.
Witnesses reported seeing at least three men in Proud Boy-branded gear. A small station was set up for accepting donations.
Only one truck––a bright yellow rig with no trailer attached, bedazzled in American and Polish flags––made an appearance at the final gathering.
Photos provided by a witness at the beginning of Sunday’s route in the empty KMart lot also show a second semi-truck with an open trailer.
It is not known why this additional truck disappeared and did not accompany the convoy onward.
Late Sunday night, organizers announced yet another switch in dates for their proposed sendoff rally in Gurnee, IL. The group now claims they will be leaving Gurnee Mills Mall for Indianapolis on March 1…and that they will have “security” protecting their events in Madison and Gurnee.