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As the antivaccine protests in Canada drag on, American groups are furiously planning their own domestic versions of the truck convoys. As I wrote last week, organizing efforts are gathering steam on the social media platform Telegram, where group leaders with white nationalist ties are delivering marching orders to thousands of followers—many of whom appear to be parents.
The American convoy organizers have been careful to project a populist, grassroots image of “everyday patriots” uniting to protest government overreach. Yet behind the scenes, some of them have connections to powerful organizers on the far right. The conflict between the two strains of the movement is playing out in chaotic and voluminous Telegram chats, where participants jostle for power and are sounding increasingly paranoid.
As recently as last week, the organizers seemed to favor a more-is-better approach, encouraging supporters to plan their own small convoys where they live. Some participants seemed intent on staging a demonstration at the Mexican border; others discussed coalescing at the Northern border, near the Canadian convoys. Two main factions have emerged: The People’s Convoy, whose official Telegram organizing page has more than 46,000 followers, is now rallying people to leave from Barstow, California, on February 23, with plans to arrive in Washington, DC, on March 5, in time for President Biden’s State of the Union Address.
A smaller group, Defeat the Mandates, is planning a separate protest and concert in Coachella later in the spring. The event was initially scheduled for March 5, but its leaders seem to have caved to pressure not to draw focus from the People’s Convoy, some of whose leaders have disparaged the smaller rally on Telegram. As Ryan Sanchez, the avowed white nationalist leader of the Orange County People’s Convoy chat, posted sarcastically on his personal Telegram page, “Instead of going to the Capital city of the nation, we…