Why did ‘Take Our Border Back’ convoy start in Hampton Roads? There are local connections

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The “Take Our Border Back” convoy, a group of protesters claiming to be “God’s Army,” rolled out from Norfolk Monday toward the U.S.-Mexico border.

The convoy, which calls on “all active retired law enforcement and military, veterans, ‘Mama Bears,’ … truckers” and more to stop migrants from entering the U.S., also prominently includes January 6 defendants, QAnon influencers and other far-right figures.

It comes as tensions are rising between the federal government and Texas over the southern border.

Texas has the support of Virginia and 26 other GOP-led states over its border policies, including the use of razor wire by the Texas National Guard meant to deter migrants. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court moved 5-4 to grant an emergency appeal from the Biden administration to cut that razor wire and allow access for federal authorities such as Border Patrol.

However, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has since doubled down on the razor wire, and wrote a letter that accuses the federal government of “breaking its compact between the United States and the States.” And the GOP presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, is calling on “all willing states to deploy their guards to Texas to prevent the entry of illegals.”

Meanwhile, the convoy’s organizers claim it will peacefully protest the Biden administration’s policies when it eventually reaches its final rally locations at the border in Eagle Pass, Texas; Yuma, Arizona; and San Ysidro, California.

But why start the convoy here in Hampton Roads at the Virginia Beach-Norfolk line?

Organizers of the convoy have pointed to the 1607 First Landing at Cape Henry in Virginia Beach, where the first permanent English settlers in North America set up a cross before heading up the James River to settle at Jamestown.

“That’s where our founders first stepped foot on this continent and dedicated this land to Jesus Christ, and the gospel would go forth from this land,” said organizer Craig Hudgins before the convoy departed Monday from the Norfolk Premium Outlets. This has come out of it, this has flowed from it.”

Hudgins, a Marine Corps veteran from Virginia Beach, was also one of the organizers of First Landing 1607, a local gathering in April 2023 of Christian nationalists committed to “re-dedicating (re-marrying) the nation back to God.”

Attendees included Regent University dean and former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, far-right influencer Glenn Beck and several controversial and extreme right-wing preachers, including some that called LGBTQ+ people mentally ill and “vermin” — the latter of which has been used by Trump to describe his enemies, echoing speech used by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis.

Now nine months later, Hudgins and other organizers of First Landing 1607, such as Robert Agee, have teamed up with others for the convoy.

They include “Church Militant” board member Yahanseh George (YG) Nyghtstorm and Chesapeake resident and Vets for Trump founder Joshua Macias, a “QAnon” believer who was convicted on weapons charges after being arrested outside a Philadelphia voting center during the 2020 election.

Hudgins said Monday that one participant was also involved in the January 2022 convoy that went to Washington, D.C. to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

Like the COVID convoy, organizers are amping up the Christian nationalist rhetoric. Experts say that’s a major concern amid fears of a potential armed confrontation between protesters and the federal government.

“When people believe that they are working on behalf of God, they might be willing to resort to relatively extreme measures,” said Ruth Braunstein, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut and author of “Prophets and Patriots: Faith in Democracy Across the Political Divide” told Vice News’ Tess Owen. ”And so you have a politically volatile situation that could become much more so, in part because of this rhetoric.”

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt called the situation a “powder keg of tension” as he and Newsmax host Carl Higbie speculated about a “force-on-force” conflict.

“Let’s say this showdown—I mean, that’s what it is, it’s a showdown,” Higbie said, hypothesizing. “It’s a showdown of power and loyalties and constitutionality. Let’s say [Biden] does that. How many people say, ‘No. You know what? Screw you, Biden administration.’ And how many people stay and fight with Texas versus the federal things, and does that put us on course for a force-on-force conflict?”

Vice reports other organizers and supporters include right-wing influencer Kim Yeater, former military commander Peter Chambers, who went on Alex Jones to promote the event, and Scotty Saks, the host of “Sovereign Radio.”

The convoy started out with a handful of vehicles Monday morning, including a large bus, and had gained a few dozen participants as of noon Monday, though paranoia among the ranks of a “false flag” have muddied the operation, Vice reported.

In addition to Owen, you can also follow Wired’s David Gilbert, Raw Story’s Jordan Green and others for the latest on the convoy.

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