Updated February 23, 2022 - 11:31 pm
ADELANTO, Calif. — A slate of speakers rallied a crowd of about 500 in the California desert Wednesday morning to send a group of truckers on a cross-country convoy in protest of pandemic-related mandates and emergency measures.
“The last two years have been really, really rough,” said attorney Leigh Dundas, a prominent anti-vaccine activist, speaking from a makeshift stage fashioned out of a trailer. “A lot of people have died from COVID and many more have died from that policies that were put in place to handle COVID.”
Dundas said pandemic policies have crippled the economy and harmed businesses and workers. She preached unity and inclusion and said the journey would be completely peaceful and lawful.
There was a festive atmosphere in a ballpark parking lot in the small town of Adelanto, about 85 miles east of Los Angeles, with many waving American flags and music playing over speakers. People danced and it was nearly impossible to walk through the crowd without hitting a flag.
A convoy of about 25 trucks departed Adelanto after 11:30 a.m. with snow-dusted mountains visible in the distance. The first leg of the roughly 2,500-mile journey across the country ended in Kingman, Arizona, on Wednesday night. Just down a highway from where the convoy began, the line of vehicles stretched more than two miles.
CONVOY ARRIVAL IN KINGMAN: The People’s Convoy has arrived at Great American Pizza and Subs. Hundreds of cars are lined up on either side of Route 68, over a thousand people here. We will be updating you as they leave Kingman tomorrow, final stop is Washington DC on March 5. pic.twitter.com/bk3SDkYd8S
— James Schaeffer (@jamesmschaeffer) February 24, 2022
On the way to Kingman, protesters waved flags and hung banners from overpasses.
The convoy will conclude on March 5 near Washington, D.C., but Dundas said the group will not travel into the nation’s capital.
“But this is about the journey and the message and not so much the destination,” she said.
Supporters and organizers of the convoy have said the demonstration is not political, but flags and apparel sported by many supporters skewed toward being pro-Donald Trump and anti-Joe Biden.
The demonstration, which comes after a similar convoy led to protests, disruptions and arrests in Canada, will not pass through Las Vegas.
Organizers and supporters say the demonstration seeks to put a focus on freedom and force an end to the national COVID-19 emergency.
This month, California, Nevada and other states started eliminating or easing pandemic restrictions. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked a Biden administration COVID-19 vaccination mandate for large businesses.
The group is not associated with other convoys heading toward Washington, and Dundas tried to distance the demonstration from others that have alluded to being disruptive.
“Go forth in peace and unity and let freedom roll,” she said to boisterous applause and the blaring of truck horns.
Dr. Paul Alexander, a former Health and Human Services Department adviser appointed by then-President Donald Trump, said public health officials and leaders lied about the virus to control people with lockdowns and mask mandates.
He said leaders should be put on trial before leading the crowd in chants of “Lock them up!”
Alexander implored the people in attendance to avoid further shots if they had already begun the vaccination process, and urged them against administering the vaccine to children.
“This is the hill you die on: You never let them put this in your children’s arm,” he said.
Alexander claimed the COVID-19 vaccines cause infection, severe illness and even death. Public health officials, however, say inoculation against COVID-19 is proven safe and highly effective in deterring serious illness and death.
Convoy draws large crowd
Alex Ojeda of Norwalk, California, was moved by the rally and seeing people coming together to do what in his opinion is right.
“It chokes me up,” he said. “I’m about to tear up, sometimes, hearing this because it’s something that comes right out of my heart.”
Benjamin Gosnell traveled to Adelanto from Hawaii with his family, giving leis to truckers who were embarking on the journey. He said he made the trip from Hawaii to stand up for rights and freedoms for future generations. He said his family plans to stay with the convoy until St. Louis, Missouri.
“And really what we want to do is, I mean, even allow our communities to find unity in creating solutions, not division and mandates and orders,” Gosnell said.
Jon Elledge of Adelanto is joining the convoy in his white Kenworth truck with blue stripes, hoping to send a message of unity. He said he wants the convoy to lead to the federal government working for the people.
“Most everybody here feels they’re being taken advantage of by the federal government,” he said. “These people pay their taxes and they get nothing for it.”
Jim Toth was in Southern California to pick up a load with his truck, but plans to join the convoy until it gets to Indianapolis. He said he wants the convoy to tell others that supporters of the demonstration will have their freedom.
“We’re not gonna live any other way without it.” he said.