A trucker convoy of “patriots” is heading to the U.S. border with Mexico next week, as the standoff between Texas and the federal government intensifies.
The organizers of the “Take Our Border Back” convoy have called themselves “God’s army” and say they’re on a mission to stand up against the “globalists” who they claim are conspiring to keep U.S. borders open and destroy the country.
“This is a biblical, monumental moment that’s been put together by God,” one convoy organizer said on a recent planning call. “We are besieged on all sides by dark forces of evil,” said another. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. It is time for the remnant to rise.” (The remnant, from the Book of Revelation, are the ones who remain faithful to Jesus Christ in times of crisis).
Experts say that the Christian nationalist overtones in this rhetoric adds a dangerous dimension to an already fraught situation.
“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.” ”And so you have a politically volatile situation that could become much more so, in part because of this rhetoric.”
The organizers current plan is for the convoy to depart Virginia Beach on Monday and snake down through the southeast, stopping over in Jacksonville, Florida before making its way to several stops along the border. The convoy will then split up for separate rallies on Feb. 3, one near Eagle Pass, Texas, a second in Yuma, Arizona, and a third in San Ysidro, California.
A group of six patriot-world influencers, including Kim Yeater, who runs a self-empowerment self-help group and an anti-voter fraud group, started organizing the convoy around a month ago. “God’s army is rising up,” she said on the planning call. “We all have been chosen for this time.”
“God’s army is rising up,” said Kim Yeater, one of the convoy organizers, on a planning call
“GOD’S ARMY IS RISING UP,” SAID KIM YEATER, ONE OF THE CONVOY ORGANIZERS, ON A PLANNING CALL
The convoy was originally intended to send a message to the Biden Administration: “Secure Our Borders.” Its website calls on “all active & retired law enforcement and military, veterans, mama bears, elected officials, business owners, ranchers, truckers, bikers, media and LAW ABIDING, freedom-loving Americans,” to join the cause.
But recent events have significantly raised the stakes for the convoy. Two weeks ago the Texas National Guard seized control of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas—an epicenter of unauthorized border crossings—and erected razor wire around it, effectively limiting Border Patrol’s access to the area. It was an act of aggression in a simmering dispute between Texas and the federal government over who has jurisdictional authority over the border.
Days later, a migrant woman and two children drowned while attempting to cross the Rio Grande into Eagle Pass. The Biden Administration claimed that the Texas National Guard prevented Border Patrol from saving them, which Texas has denied.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government—not Texas—had authority over the border, and that Border Control could cut down the razor wire. Texas has since doubled down on erecting razor wire, and officials said that they plan to “hold the line.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wrote a letter accusing the federal government of “breaking its compact between the United States and the States.” At least 16 Republican governors say they support him, as Biden faces calls from some Democrats to “federalize” the Texas national guard, which would remove it from Abbott’s command.
These latest developments have aroused civil war fantasies on fringe forums, as well as on the social media accounts of GOP lawmakers and right-wing political commentators. On Thursday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Newsmax host Carl Rigbie mused about the possibility of a “force-on-force conflict” erupting between the federal government and the Texas National Guard, The Daily Beast reported.
And this all means that the border convoy is garnering more interest than it might have done a couple of weeks ago.
The convoy’s crowdfunder on GiveSendGo has raked in more than $30,000 just this week, totaling nearly $50,000 by Friday morning. “Once willing to die defending this country, now willing to die protecting my family from what this country has become,” said one donor, who identified himself as a Navy vet. “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes,” wrote another.
Thousands of dollars rolled in on Wednesday, when Infowars’ Alex Jones interviewed one of the organizers, Pete Chambers, a former military commander who says he was a green beret. “There’s a war literally happening now for America,” Jones said.
“We’re at 1774 right now,” said Chambers. He later drew a comparison with the Biblical story of Gideon’s Army; in the Book of Judges, the army’s faith in God allowed them to prevail over their enemy despite being vastly outnumbered.
A photo of one of the billboards, courtesy of one of the convoy organizers Scotty Saks
Ads for the convoy have gone up on 40 digital billboards in Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and California, courtesy of a “private donor” whose identity organizers would not disclose.
In an interview with VICE News, organizer Scotty Saks, who is the host of “Sovereign Radio,” said the convoy has nothing to do with the ongoing fight between Texas and the feds. “We’re not really focused on that,” said Saks. “We’re staying the course about making this peaceful assembly as large as we can make it, to make a statement to federal, state, local officials that we don’t want open borders.”
But the temperature continues to rise around Texas’s border with Mexico. On Thursday evening, former president and current GOP frontrunner Donald Trump weighed in, calling on “all willing states to deploy their guards to Texas to prevent the entry of illegals.”
With all this happening in the background, Saks, who is running PR for the convoy, may struggle to keep the demonstration contained and on message. Word of the convoy is spreading online—not as a straightforward border protest, but a massive show of support for Abbott. “Freedom Convoy to Aid Texas in Border Security as Abbott Defies Feds” declared conservative blog Headline USA. “Truckers Convoy Heads to Texas to Put a Stop to Biden’s Border Madness” wrote another right-wing blog.
Saks stressed that the convoy and rallies are supposed to be peaceful demonstrations, but acknowledged that not everyone coming may be on the same page.
“We realize we may have infiltrators. There may be some people who try to subvert us, who jump in the convoy—provocateurs. We may have some, and they’re going to have to deal with our security team, they’ll be asked to leave,” Saks told VICE News. “We won’t tolerate anyone brandishing a weapon or starting trouble, or making this more than what it’s supposed to be.”
We’re not going to make waves…This is just to make a statement, have music, pray,” Saks added. “It’s only a call to arms if the people around us make it a call to arms.”
In a Friday morning appearance on Fox Business, GOP Congressman from Texas Keith Self, who has promoted the convoy, suggested that as many as 700,000 vehicles could participate and echoed organizers, saying it is intended to be a peaceful demonstration.
Saks says that organizers have been in contact with local law enforcement along the convoy routes and in rally locations. Additionally, the rallies will take place on private property, which he says will empower event security to remove any troublemakers. The locations for the Arizona and California rallies haven’t been posted yet.
The Texas rally is taking place in Quemado, about a 25-minute drive from Eagle Pass, at the “Children’s Cornerstone Ranch,” which provides ministerial services to kids.
Some have suggested online that the convoy is a “psyop,” stacked with undercover agents, designed to lure well-meaning “patriots” into a violent event—which is what a quarter of Americans believe happened with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“Don’t go. Remember Jan 6th. Don’t fall for it again,” a user wrote on the far-right forum patriots.win.” I don’t care how peacefully you assemble. Some Fed will instigate violence and MAGA will be blamed for it. If one shot is fired, everything is over. You know it will be fired.”
But the narratives inherent to Christian nationalism offer moral justification for engaging in violence, says Braunstein, and in the context of the escalating drama over the border, that makes some of the organizers’ rhetoric concerning. Braunstein cited polling by Public Religion Research Institute finding that nearly a third of Republicans believe that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save the country.”
The same study found that number jumped by ten percentage points when combined with Christian Nationalist ideology, and belief in racist “replacement theory” that suggests that “immigrants are invading our country and replacing our cultural and ethnic background.”