A noisy convoy of trucks is pouring down the Beltway outside Washington, DC, presenting itself as an organic response to the masks and vaccine mandates. But the group that officially pays for all that diesel is not a grassroots organization for truckers.
As of Wednesday, conservative dark money organization American Foundation for Civil Liberties and Freedoms grew up $464,731 for “The People’s Convoy”—as the protesters have branded themselves. That amount has almost triple over the past few days and is expected to increase significantly in the coming weeks.
“Convoy up, America – the donation button will go towards funding the trip to Freedom: we will take back our country for ourselves and future generations!” website says.
The money will “repay the trucker’s fuel costs and heavy lifting costs,” the group noted, adding that “funds are being handled by volunteer accountants and overseen by a law firm.”
Better yet, because the group is a nonprofit organized under section 501(c) 3 of the tax code, all gifts are tax-deductible — and donors can remain anonymous.
Reached for comment, AFCLF president Chris Marston did not explain how the funding will work, or how participants will qualify and access the money, saying that things come together too Quick to set up rules.
“Trucker leaders are on the finance committee to determine where the need is but the methods depend on the nature of the costs,” Marston said via text message. “This all came too quickly to have predefined rules, so we formed a committee with Attorneys, accounts and truck driver oversight.” [sic]
Marston said the fund would not cover return trips after the protest and created a huge gap between his team and the event itself.
“We do not have agreements with truckers on destination planning,” explains Marston. “We are providing fuel, food, signage and the basics for their journey,” he said, adding that his team has also “worked with local authorities to become a into cooperation.” He did not specify which agency they were, or their jurisdiction.
In addition to fundraising, Marston said, the AFCLF will also provide “guidance on how to keep the peace and unity in the message,” and will coordinate volunteers.
“That’s the gist of it,” he said.
But in its first year of operation, the AFCLF developed an ominous reputation.
Last July, Marston’s group hold a fundraiser to assist Matt DePerno, a Michigan attorney who had been referred to authorities just weeks earlier for allegedly defrauding donors for his bizarre legal attempt to overturn the results. election 2020.
But while the AFCLF identifies itself as a “cross-party party” —and Marston claims its membership includes many Democrats — top problem on its website reads like a MAGA voter’s dream platform: grievances about the 2020 election, critical race theory, cultural deregulation, big tech, school boards, and vaccinations obligatory.
In an interview last summer Marston told The Daily Beast that the AFCLF has “probably 100” members and is seeking to persuade local electoral boards across the country to take steps against allegations of voter fraud. He also suggested that he was aware of “game-changing” evidence that could authorize the 2020 election and have a “headache effect” on public confidence.
(After the election, Marston declare on social media that he is a “liberal” and repeatedly called former President Donald Trump “an asshole.”)
Marston founded the AFCLF’s twin nonprofit last May, after the vote denial movement made it clear on January 6 that it was prone to constrictive political violence. And many experts on extremism today warn that it is these same social and cultural forces that are driving the caravan movement — a warning that has recently proven true during the caravan protests. car in Canada.
One extremism researcher said, “This is like the culmination of everything that has happened since January 6th.” told NBC News, pointed to anti-vaxxer and malicious QAnon officers in the convoys.
And thanks to that constituency, as well as the recent violence in Ottawa, the question of peace will be at the forefront of the bill.
Truckers in protest against Canada’s vaccine mandate set an example for the People’s Convoy, creating economic devastation with their blockades. The protest also attracted white supremacists and anti-government groups, and violent. As the chaos dissipated, Canadian law enforcement made an arrest nearly 200 opponents.
But a press release by the People’s Delegation from February 20 describes its mission as “a peaceful and law-abiding transcontinental journey” that reverses the national mandate on vaccines. The convoy departed Adelanto, CA, Wednesday afternoon, and is scheduled to arrive in DC 10 days later, on March 5.
The central grievance in the press release appears to be economic.
“The average American worker needs to be able to weather the economic hardships of the past two years and get back into the bread-making business – so they can pay their rent and mortgages and help out. kickstart this economy,” the statement said, claiming that “COVID is doing well now and Americans need to return to work freely and without restriction.”
The last two statements are incorrect.
While the deadly wave of Omicrons has begun to subside in many parts of the country, the United States still has averaged nearly 2,100 daily deaths over the past two weeks, according to data from New York Times.
And as for Americans “getting back to work,” the nation posted a record job increase last year, adding another one. 467,000 new jobs in January. The unemployment rate has been on a downward trend since April 2020 and is currently about 4 percent.
But the convoy itself will strain the finances of the participants, especially with funding only for the 10-day journey east, not the return trip.
In petrol price todayan 18-wheeler traveling at an average of 8 miles per gallon will burn about $1,200 in diesel fuel along a 2,500-mile one-way trip from Adelanto to the Ring – and that’s before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drives up gas prices. more than.
Before any decision can be made by payment processors or law enforcement to cut off fundraising channels, as happened recently in Canada when extremists joined the protests. protest against the proxy.
But the People’s Delegation says that, unlike the Ottawa protests it sees as inspiration and precedent, its members will not participate in blockades—And won’t even get into Washington, DC (The Beltway goes through DC, over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.)
“The People’s Delegation will comply with agreements with local government, and terminate in the vicinity of DC, but will NOT enter DC in its entirety,” the group’s press release said, which did not list those agreements.
It is not clear if the group is in contact with any DC area authorities. Marston indicated that “agreements” in the press release referred to local jurisdictions throughout the process and said he was not aware of any attempts to contact district officials. DC area.
A public records request to the Virginia State Police returned one document — an email that did not mention any communications with the convoy representative. The email said the agency “continues to monitor the situation,” which it calls “standard practice” ahead of any potentially disruptive events.
Maryland State Police are not aware of any communications from the convoy. A representative said the department is monitoring protests “across the country” and will work with federal, state and local agencies in the area “to ensure the free flow of traffic across the highways.” path of travel.”
However, not all of the participants wanted to keep the traffic moving — and they made that clear, if there were any objections from Marston’s team.
“If they can’t go to work, too bad,” said Bolus, a leader of a movement that has vowed to support those who cannot work.
Such a “midway knot” around a 64-mile Ring detour would require thousands of trucks and could pose a national security threat. And while a single wall on all lanes would require less than 20 trucks, they could be quickly removed.
Marston, who confirmed that the People’s Convoy would not enter the County, said Bolus was “unlinked” and his plan was “crass,” adding that the People’s Convoy thought about he was “like that crazy cop from Police Academy. ”
However, it will be difficult for the People’s Convoy to separate itself from the bad guys — just look at it amazing array among groups now self-arrange with the project. And its official partners include a right-wing activist called for state officials to be executed after the election, as well as Trump’s first national security adviser to become a convicted liar and QAnon enthusiast General Mike Flynn, whose nonprofit affiliate profits Americas Project is an official convoy of the people partner.
The convoy also has a plan absorbing tributaries along the 10-day route from California to the East Coast. Official Facebook Groups boasts about 146,000 members. Its Telegram channel has 13,650 and has reached over 10,700 followers on Gab and another 19,900 on Gettr.
When asked about how they plan to distinguish themselves from extremists and keep all their members on the right side of the law, Marston said the group was “talking” with other convoys to “reach agreement on a code of conduct, make reasonable demands, and avoid conflict.”
“Ninety-nine percent of them want to be merged, but there are always a few crazy eggs in each bunch,” he said.
Adam Rawnsley contributed to this report.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-mysterious-right-wing-group-american-foundation-for-civil-liberties-and-freedoms-funding-trucker-convoy?source=articles&via=rss The Mysterious Right-wing Group American Foundation for Liberty and Civil Liberties Funds the Trucker Convoy