'Let Freedom roll': Nationwide People’s Convoy kicks off in Adelanto

·15 min read

“Let freedom roll,” shouted one semi-truck driver as he joined hundreds of others in Adelanto to start the cross-country People’s Convoy toward Washington, D.C

The long-distance trek began Wednesday at Adelanto Stadium and is a protest against government COVID-19 mandates, with a message that “government has forgotten its place,” and its mask and vaccination mandates are unconstitutional.

“I love America, but our freedoms will be stripped away if we don’t stand up for our rights,” said driver Larry Horton, 49, who lives in Nevada. “This ride is not about truckers, it’s about America.”

Horton joined convoy organizers as they call for the U.S. government to lift the declaration of a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and to cease depriving citizens of their "fundamental rights" by enforcing mask and vaccine mandates.

Many of the truck drivers said they plan to drive a segment of the nearly 2,600-mile route before heading back home or to a job.

"I came down from Tacoma, Washington," said truck driver Kris Barnes, 42. "I plan on traveling with the convoy pass Texas, then drop a load off in Mississippi before heading north."

Barnes told the Daily Press he hopes that the "much-needed convoy" will wake people up to speak out against needless mandates and government overreach.

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Attendees take a selfie at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
Attendees take a selfie at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

Send-off rally

A cold wind blew across the stadium parking lot during the send-off rally, where visitors posed for selfies in front of a semi-tractor trailer, which included a large banner that read, “People’s Convoy 2022.”

The banner’s design included images of trucks and U.S. and Texas flags, and the words “Let’s Go Brandon,” “Support America’s Truckers!!” “We The People” and “We Will Not Comply!”

Orange County lawyer and Republican activist Leigh Dundas was the master of ceremonies at Wednesday’s "People’s Convoy” send-off rally.  The convoy of semi-trucks left Adelanto and headed east toward Washington, D.C.
Orange County lawyer and Republican activist Leigh Dundas was the master of ceremonies at Wednesday’s "People’s Convoy” send-off rally. The convoy of semi-trucks left Adelanto and headed east toward Washington, D.C.

The host of the rally was Orange County lawyer and Republican activist Leigh Dundas, who said, “It’s been two years, and it’s time to open this darn economy with no more restrictions on it.”

Dundas also emphasized that the People’s Convoy should “not be confused with other convoys” who may have ill intentions toward the government.

The attorney contacted Darrel Courtney, the chief executive of the Adelanto Stadium and Event Center, with interest on renting the venue as a starting point for the convoy.

Speakers at the rally included Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance President Dr. Pierre Kory, who discouraged the audience from being vaccinated.

Also speaking, Pastor Rob McCoy from Godspeak Calvary Chapel of Thousand Oaks

The Washington Post reported last year that Godspeak had been “transformed into a kind of garrison in the coronavirus culture wars,” where McCoy dismissed COVID-19 as “an overblown sham and rails against pandemic restrictions he believes unlawfully trample religious liberties.”

The "People’s Convoy” of semi-trucks heading towards Washington, D.C. on Wednesday began in Adelanto, California with a send-off rally, which included sign carrying and flag waving supporters.
The "People’s Convoy” of semi-trucks heading towards Washington, D.C. on Wednesday began in Adelanto, California with a send-off rally, which included sign carrying and flag waving supporters.

Convoy co-founder Maureen Steele told the Daily Press that she was pleased with the turnout and said it was a “testament to the spirit of the American people.”

“You know, the human spirit can be injured and wounded, but you can’t kill it,” Steele said. “Every creed and color, every persuasion and nationality are here and it's an inspirational scene. And most of the crowd aren’t even truckers, just regular Americans who love their country and are wishing the truckers well.”

A resident of Montana, Steele said the truckers and supporters following them in vehicles are “carrying the hopes and dreams of every freedom-loving American.”

Mayor Gabriel Reyes and Councilwoman Joy Jeanette also addressed the audience.

A trucker displays a sign in his cab at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
A trucker displays a sign in his cab at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

Civilians, surveillance on the route

People from across the High Desert began assembling in the morning hours to await the convoy at nearly every bridge overpassing Interstates 15 to 40 for at least 63 miles north of Adelanto Stadium.

Those supporters weren’t the only frequent presence at highway exits Wednesday. At least one California Highway Patrol vehicle, and in most cases two of them, could be seen stationed by every highway overpass and many other standard exits from I-15 in Barstow to I-40 in Newberry Springs.

Some supporters were misplaced at their bridge-of-choice due to the truckers taking a separate string of highways than expected on their way to I-40, the cross-country highway that begins in Barstow and ends in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Shortly after 11 a.m., one semi-truck and six midsize vehicles — two of them being CHP patrol cars — were parked and waiting in the open sand roughly a mile south of the Outlets at Barstow on either side of an I-15 overpass that’s usually dormant in its traffic volume.

At least one California Highway Patrol vehicle, in many cases two, could be seen stationed by every highway overpass and many other standard exits from I-15 in Barstow to I-40 in Newberry Springs as people gathered to greet incoming truckers Feb. 23, 2022.
At least one California Highway Patrol vehicle, in many cases two, could be seen stationed by every highway overpass and many other standard exits from I-15 in Barstow to I-40 in Newberry Springs as people gathered to greet incoming truckers Feb. 23, 2022.

By noon, that had risen to 10 midsize vehicles — still including the two CHP cars — until a man in a standard-size truck arrived from northbound I-40, informing the spectators the starting route had changed to one that now excluded the Barstow overpass.

Within about three minutes, all who were present in their vehicles were gone in search of a new spot to greet the incoming truckers except for the two CHP cars, which remained where they’d first parked in the morning.

Supporters who did land a position along the convoy’s route were greeted by more than 10 minutes-worth of honks from vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Such was the scene when the convoy arrived shortly after 2:30 p.m. at an overpass just east of Newberry Springs, roughly an hour-worth of driving from the Adelanto Stadium.

More than a dozen people had gathered along the Fort Cady Road bridge at that point to cheer them on. Two CHP cruisers were parked on the ground below them, to the side of northbound I-40, and were joined by what appeared to be a civilian in a black SUV who pulled up next to the patrol cars at the same time that the truckers began passing through. More than 40 minutes of honking ensued, then a lull, at which point the CHP cars, the SUV and many of the civilians on the bridge — but not all of them — left the scene.

Truckers and supporters

Truck drivers from all over California and the U.S. on Tuesday began arriving at the stadium, where they inspected their vehicles, met with supporters, and enjoyed a meal.

Some drivers picked up donations of water, food, medical supplies, and other items, which were dropped off by church groups and local supporters.

Families with children welcomed the drivers with colorful letters of support. One letter read, “Thank you for defending our freedom!”

Another letter included a Bible verse, a drawing of a crossed-out syringe, and the words, “Fight for Our Lives!” and “Trump 2024.”

Fresno resident Tammy Winiger told the Daily Press that her in-laws, who live in Kingman, Arizona, are planning to support the convoy by standing on an Interstate 40 overpass with flags, banners, and signs.

Winiger and her mother-in-law took part in a cross-country Tea Party Movement event during President Barack Obama’s time in office, she said.

“No matter what side of the political table you sit on, I believe everyone’s voice should be heard,” Winiger said. “This convoy is a great way for the government to hear our voices and for the truckers to know that we support them.”

Supporters line up on an overpass in the Barstow area on Wednesday, Feb. 23 to cheer on the cross-country People’s Convoy toward Washington, D.C.
Supporters line up on an overpass in the Barstow area on Wednesday, Feb. 23 to cheer on the cross-country People’s Convoy toward Washington, D.C.

COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

During the rally, speakers Dr. Pierre Kory and Paul Alexander spread misinformation about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, specifically that the vaccines cause cancer.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, dubbed Operation Warp Speed by the Trump administration, misinformation about the shots' side effects has circulated widely online.

USA TODAY has previously debunked claims of a cancer spike resulting from the COVID-19 vaccines.

Medical experts and state health officials told USA TODAY there has not been a dramatic uptick in cancer rates during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. There is no evidence the vaccines cause cancer, either.

More: COVID, vaccine misinformation spread by hundreds of websites, analysis finds

If the claim in the rally speeches were true, it stands to reason that oncology offices would be overwhelmed with cancer cases. But there is no evidence that's the case, according to Dr. Howard Forman, a radiology professor at Yale University.

Kory is a vocal advocate of the debunked use of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment and a member of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC)

Alexander is a former Trump administration official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). He was a part-time professor at a Canadian university before being appointed temporary senior policy adviser to the Assistant HSS Secretary for Public Affairs.He resigned after emails he wrote trying to muzzle federal scientists and public health agencies from contradicting the Trump Administration's political talking COVID-19 talking points were released.

An attendee records a speech during the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
An attendee records a speech during the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

The People’s Convoy

The convoy left Adelanto for Bartow and is expected to cross California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, and Maryland before arriving in Washington, D.C. on March 5.

Convoy organizers say participants will abide by agreements with local authorities and — once the ride is over — terminate in the vicinity of the Washington, D.C. area.

The convoy is being assisted by retired military personnel and security experts, who are spearheading logistics to ensure a safe, lawful and peaceful journey, convoy organizers said.

But Pentagon officials are not certain the end of the convoy will be uncongested with traffic or peaceful.

On Tuesday, the government was planning to deploy 700 to 800 unarmed National Guard troops to the nation's capital in the face of multiple trucker convoys that are planning protests against pandemic restrictions, the Associated Press reported.

The "People’s Convoy” of semi-trucks heading towards Washington, D.C. on Wednesday began in Adelanto, California with a send-off rally, which included sign carrying and flag waving supporters.
The "People’s Convoy” of semi-trucks heading towards Washington, D.C. on Wednesday began in Adelanto, California with a send-off rally, which included sign carrying and flag waving supporters.

If approved, National Guard personnel would be used mostly to help control traffic, although Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said their presence was also requested to stand ready in case of “possible disruptions at key traffic arteries.”

The U.S. convoys follow the recent Canadian truckers' protest which shuttered the busiest U.S. Canadian border crossing and flooded the streets of the capital, Ottawa, for weeks to protest government pandemic restrictions.

More than 100 arrests were made, as law enforcement officials last week broke up multiple road blockades.

The Great American Patriot Project started the American Truckers Freedom Fund on Wednesday and urged truck drivers to join multiple convoys starting in March.

The I-10 Corridor Convoy, which begins March 2 in Fresno, will move south toward Los Angeles before heading toward Arizona. The convoy will travel the southernmost part of the U.S. before arriving in Florida and moving north to Washington, D.C.

Trucks line up on Wednesday, Feb. 23 to leave Adelanto Stadium to start the cross-country People’s Convoy toward Washington, D.C.
Trucks line up on Wednesday, Feb. 23 to leave Adelanto Stadium to start the cross-country People’s Convoy toward Washington, D.C.

Opposition

A local activist group —the Hi Desert Science Appreciators — has opposed the People’s Convoy. The group claims the convoy and public send-off is a “Super Spreader” of COVID-19 and a threat to public safety.

Activist Yolette Rios told the Daily Press she is concerned about the convoy and that her group is calling on the City of Adelanto to put its residents first and to ensure public safety.

“It’s time to mobilize and to let city leaders know that now is not the time to have a mass gathering,” Rios said. “COVID-19 is not over, yet people want to rush things to end this pandemic. It’s not safe yet. Our other concern is the safety of those on the roadways as hundreds of trucks make their way out of Adelanto toward Washington, D.C.”

Over the last week, people from across the country contacted the Daily Press to voice their concerns about the convoy.

“We’re trying to rebound from the pandemic and we have people getting in their trucks and possibly spreading COVID from one state to another,” said Dominique Mercado, 35, from Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

A dog sits in a cab of one of the trucks participating in the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
A dog sits in a cab of one of the trucks participating in the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

The route

A travel route map, which is subject to change, has been posted on the People’s Convoy website. Much of the route remains on Interstate 40 from Barstow to Oklahoma City, then transitions to other roadways.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 23 – Depart Adelanto Stadium. Evening arrival in Kingman, Arizona for overnight stay.

  • Thursday, Feb. 24 - Morning departure from Arizona, head east on I-40 toward Lupton, Arizona for evening arrival and overnight stay.

  • Friday, Feb. 25 - Morning departure from Arizona on I-40 eastbound thru New Mexico. Evening arrival in Glenrio, Texas for overnight stay.

  • Saturday, Feb. 26 - Morning departure from Texas. Evening arrival in Elk City, Oklahoma area for overnight stay.

  • Sunday, Feb. 27 - Depart Elk City, Oklahoma area. Evening arrival in Vinita, Oklahoma area for overnight stay.

  • Monday, Feb. 28 - Morning departure from Oklahoma. Evening arrival in Sullivan, Missouri area for overnight stay.

  • Tuesday, March 1 -Morning departure from Missouri. Evening arrival in Indianapolis, Indiana area for overnight stay.

  • Wednesday, March 2 - Morning departure from Indiana. Evening is extended and overnight stay.

  • Thursday, March 3 - Morning departure from Indiana. Evening arrival in Cambridge, Ohio area for overnight stay.

  • Friday, March 4 - Morning departure from Ohio. Evening arrival in Hagerstown, Maryland area for overnight stay.

  • Saturday, March 5 - Morning departure from Maryland. Evening arrival in Washington, D.C. Beltway area.

A trucker stands in front of his rig at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
A trucker stands in front of his rig at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

Organizers

The People’s Convoy is a non-partisan effort supported by a cross-cultural and multi-faith consortium of organizations, including the anti-vaccination Robert Kennedy Jr.’s Children’s Health Defense TV, which will be embedded with the convoy and carry live updates, along with numerous other media outlets.

Those also involved include doctors, such as the Frontline COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, as well as liberty-minded lawyers and transportation workers like pilots.

The Unity Project, the America Project, Advocates for Citizens’ Rights, U.S. Freedom Flyers, the American Foundation for Civil Liberties & Freedom and faith leaders from every spectrum will also show support.

For more information, including truck routes and donations, visit ThePeoplesConvoy.org, the official social media site.

11:20 a.m. update

Snarled traffic has delayed big rigs from leaving the kick-off rally from Adelanto Stadium. The convoy had been scheduled to leave for the Barstow area.

As of 11:20 a.m. traffic at Rancho Road and Highway 395, the major intersection entrance is reported heavy. Traffic at the Sportsmen Center turnoff into the stadium is also reported heavy on Highway 395 through Holly Road.

An attendee holds a sign at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
An attendee holds a sign at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

10:35 a.m. update

The People’s Convoy's rally at Adelanto Stadium has ended. The convoy is preparing to leave the stadium and head towards Barstow and then eventually to the Arizona border and then across the country to the Washington D.C. area.

10:25 a.m. update

Speakers identifying themselves as doctors at the kick-off of cross-country People’s Convoy to protest government COVID-19 mandates are spreading misinformation about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines, specifically that the vaccines cause cancer.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, dubbed Operation Warp Speed by the Trump administration, misinformation about the shots' side effects has circulated widely online.

An attendee stands next to a sign at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
An attendee stands next to a sign at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

USA TODAY has previously debunked claims of a cancer spike resulting from the COVID-19 vaccines.

Medical experts and state health officials told USA TODAY there has not been a dramatic uptick in cancer rates during the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. There is no evidence the vaccines cause cancer, either.

If the claim in the rally speeches were true, it stands to reason that oncology offices would be overwhelmed with cancer cases. But there is no evidence that's the case, according to Dr. Howard Forman, a radiology professor at Yale University.

More: Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines aren't linked to cancer, HIV

A mannequin of Uncle Sam stands attached to a truck at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.
A mannequin of Uncle Sam stands attached to a truck at the People's Convoy rally, a movement opposing COVID-19 mandates, in Adelanto Stadium in Adelanto on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022.

Original story

An estimated 1,000 semi-truck drivers are expected on Wednesday to descend on Adelanto, the official starting point of the cross-country People’s Convoy to protest government COVID-19 mandates.

The kickoff of the nationwide convoy is scheduled for a 10 a.m. rally at Adelanto Stadium. As of 9:15 a.m. traffic at Rancho Road and Highway 395, the major intersection entrance is reported moderate. Traffic at the Sportsmen Center turnoff into the stadium is reported heavy. Traffic in the surrounding area is reported light.

The Daily Press will have reporters live at Adelanto Stadium to provide updates throughout the kickoff rally.

About 30 people display flags and waved at truckers from an Interstate 5 overpass on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Redding during a rally to support the cross-country People's Convoy. An estimated 1,000 semi-truck drivers are expected on Wednesday to descend on Adelanto, the official starting point of the cross-country convoy to protest government COVID-19 mandates.
About 30 people display flags and waved at truckers from an Interstate 5 overpass on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Redding during a rally to support the cross-country People's Convoy. An estimated 1,000 semi-truck drivers are expected on Wednesday to descend on Adelanto, the official starting point of the cross-country convoy to protest government COVID-19 mandates.

Long line of cars forms outside stadium

At 9:20 a.m., Daily Press reporter Martin Estacio reported a long line of cars trying to get into the Adelanto Stadium parking area. Estacio noted there was no traffic control.

The message the truckers intend to deliver from California to Washington, D.C., is that “government has forgotten its place” and that its mask and vaccination mandates are unconstitutional.

Organizers say the convoy, which follows similar Ottawa, Canada protests, will call on lawmakers to lift the declaration of a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and to stop depriving U.S. citizens of their "fundamental rights" by enforcing mask and vaccine mandates.

Trucker drivers will be the main participant in the convoy, according to organizers, who said the peaceful protest is open to anyone.

In the capital: 700 National Guard members, 50 vehicles prepare ahead of possible truck convoy protests

Truck driver Richard Luna of Adelanto told the Daily Press that he plans on joining the convoy from Barstow to New Mexico before returning home.

“I’d drive the entire route, but my schedule is tight,” said Luna, 47, who began his behind-the-wheel career nearly 10 years ago. “My wife said she might join me on the trip.”

Luna said it took the COVID-19 pandemic to instill in him a sense of “patriotism and wanting to fight for our freedoms.”

The Canadian protest

Vehicles from the protest convoy are parked blocking lanes on a road, Jan. 30, 2022, in Ottawa.
Vehicles from the protest convoy are parked blocking lanes on a road, Jan. 30, 2022, in Ottawa.

The U.S. protest will mirror events in Canada earlier this month in which truck drivers for nearly a week protested COVID-19 restrictions while shutting down the busiest border crossing to the U.S.

Truckers in Canada, calling themselves the “Freedom Convoy,” opposed a mandate requiring drivers entering the country to be fully vaccinated or undergo testing and quarantine requirements.

"Our brothers and sisters of the highway succeeded in opening Canadians' eyes about the unconstitutional mandates and hardships forced onto their people," event organizers said on “The People’s Convoy - Official” Facebook page.

This is a developing story. Check in throughout the day for more updates.

This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: People’s Convoy kicks off in Adelanto to protest coronavirus mandates