By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
A group of girls whooped as the trucker blasted his air horn Sunday afternoon. The light blue semi-tractor trailer led a handful of trucks and vehicles adorned with flapping American flags down Garner Lake Road in Gillette.
As the small convoy passed, the girls waved a Trump 2024 “Miss me yet?” banner, jumping up and down for emphasis. The vehicles – which were being led by a Campbell County Fire Department engine – headed toward Interstate 90 and on to South Dakota.
This much smaller convoy is the second wave of semi-trucks and other vehicles headed toward the nation’s capital as part of “The People’s Convoy,” a national movement calling for an end to the emergency declarations enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The stop in Gillette on Sunday at the CBH CO-OP was organized by Gillette resident Kelley Boltin, who put together the much larger gathering March 4 when the first wave of the convoy stopped at Cam-Plex for lunch and supplies and to greet a large crowd of well-wishers thanking the truckers for taking the people’s message to the leaders in Washington.
In the weeks since the convoy arrived in Washington, participants have been circling the Capital Beltway in a message of solidarity while meeting with legislators from both parties.
On March 3, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to end the emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic on a razor-thin party-line vote of 48-47.
The bill will likely die in the Democrat-led House, and President Joe Biden has already threatened to veto should it make it to his desk.
Many truckers still remain in Maryland, while smaller convoys are heading to state capitals, including Iowa, Montana and Tennessee. On April 12, truckers will converge at the Capitol in Cheyenne, Boltin said, where they will likely circle the Capitol between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Small But Mighty
While the number of trucks taking part in the second wave of the convoy may have declined, the the message hasn’t waned, nor has the support from locals who came out Sunday to thank the truckers for their ongoing service for the cause.
Gillette residents Cheryl and Brad Morrison stood in the truck stop parking lot, where Brad holding a large American flag.
“We’re here to support the Freedom Convoy,” Brad said.
Both he and Cheryl consider the vaccination and other COVID-related mandates unconstitutional and said they should never have been approved in the first place.
“These guys are our heroes,” Cheryl said, gesturing to the cluster of pickups surrounding the semi-truck belonging to the driver from Missoula, Montana.
Convoy organizer Shelby Hotchkiss of Spokane, Washington, said she the second convoy stopping in Gillette was one of many which are making their way to Washington from across the country. Hotchkiss said she’d been on the first convoy but only made it as far as Sheridan before turning around and heading home.
Like many others who have shared their personal stories of all the people they’ve met along the way, including fellow drivers and well-wishers with supplies who met the convoy on its route, Hotchkiss has been emboldened by the sheer emotion – and sometimes, fear – in those conversations.
For her and others in the convoy, Hotchkiss doesn’t mind wearing masks, but objects to the government forcing her to “inject poison” into her veins in the form of a vaccine shot. Hotchkiss pointed to a poster taped to the tailgate on her pickup truck with a list of adverse effects from the vaccine, which include anaphylaxis, myocarditis, pericarditis and blood clots. In total, Hotchkiss said there were 158,000 adverse events identified by the FDA in clinic trials.
“None of this is being publicized,” Hotchkiss said, noting that the People’s Convoy itself is receiving no attention in the national media. Short of a reporter in Montana and Gillette, Hotchkiss has yet to see any media outlets covering these stops or the convoy itself.
In fact, she’s taking pictures along the way and posting them on social media to the people who doubt a convoy is even taking place.
“My own people don’t even believe the convoy is real,” Hotchkiss said, speculating that at any time on the road, they have anywhere from 15 to 30 trucks jumping in or separating from the convoy. Some drivers join for a short time while others duck out to grab a load to earn some money on the way.
In Gillette, as in other stops, Hotchkiss has been humbled by the shows of support, such as the donation of Girl Scout cookies from local Gillette troop 1221. The troop is doing its annual cookie sale, dad Aron Edmonson, said.
The girls had put out a sign asking for donations for the truckers, and many people had purchased boxes to be delivered to the truckers Sunday Edmonson and his daughter.
“It was their idea to support the truckers,” Edmonson said, “and a lot of people donated.”
Retired Teacher From Sheridan
Kerry Eblen, a retired teacher from Sheridan who had joined the first convoy and stayed for about a week at a race track in Maryland where the truckers had first parked, was in Gillette on Sunday to once again show her support.
Eblen described the experience and her trip as restorative.
She reiterated the resounding message from convoy organizers that the convoy isn’t a partisan issue but rather an effort to unite Americans of all political stripes, gender, races and professions under a common flag in support of the country.
Whether the convoy will be successful in its mission of redacting the COVID-19 emergency declaration and all associated mandates, for Eblen it’s already achieved its purpose of unification for her and others she’s met.
“I have stood and voiced my love of America,” she said.
She continues to follow updates and videos posted on “The People’s Convoy” Facebook page, and was pleased to see organizers had just met with a Democrat leader in Washington, D.C.
“I needed this rekindle of hope,” she said, smiling under the brim of her cowboy hat as American flags snapped in the breeze on the pickup behind her.