Honk for freedom

Photo by Sydney Rowe
Locals line an overpass in anticipation for the “Freedom Convoy” to stop in Texarkana. Those in support of the truckers raised funds and gathered supplies for their journey across the country to DC.

Story by Doug Kyles

Over a thousand Texarkanians lined the interstates of I-30 and I-49 Wednesday afternoon in support of the South Eastern branch of the “Freedom Convoy” on their path from Little Rock to Shreveport.

This convoy is self-declared to stand for all things American; however, the convoy, now mainstream across the country, took inspiration from the Canadian convoy that headlines made famous months ago. 

“It’s all about our American freedoms,” said local business owner Jeff Easterling. “It’s not in particular about any vaccine mandates, but we want to make sure that in the future [the government] can’t take down your business at their free will.”

As Easterling stood under the hot Texas sun waiting for the convoy’s arrival, he explained how the convoy embodies more than any one idea. His four children, brought to attend the rally, listened intently as he explained all the things the convoy is standing up to. 

“Most of us have had three, maybe four, hours of sleep these last few nights, and it feels great to see such support here,””

— Andrew McCarthy

“Our border is broken. Our government is broken. Our inflation is sky high,” Easterling said. “We can’t afford the gas! Look, the convoy is behind schedule. Well, none of us could afford the gas to leave and come back [when they get here], so we just stayed.” 

It’s no secret the convoy has attracted its fair share of controversy, whether that be in the news or online, but on Wednesday, those not in support of the truckers were nowhere to be found. 

“You would be surprised at how much sabotage there was as far as vehicles trying to break up the convoys,” Easterling said. “I’ve got people from Iowa calling me on my business phone upset that you know we’re promoting the freedom convoy. They even contacted my mother.”

Texarkana FYI, Easerling’s online media website, became a target of online “trolls” for their criticism of his support of the event; the amount of vitriol thrown toward this peaceful movement is what spurred Easterling to come out and support it in the first place. 

“I wasn’t even going to come out here, until my website and social media were trolled by people from all over the country,” Easterling said. “They’re dogging me personally and my business, like I’m the one that put this together.”

A large part of the gathering came from the congregation of local churches who had been advertising the event for weeks in anticipation for the truck’s stop at Circle J Cowboy Church. Part of the convoy’s message goes hand-in-hand with their religious ideals, mainly, the effort to protect religious freedom from “any and all assaults.”

“Some of these people have been out here waiting as long as four hours,” Circle J Pastor Todd Hervey said. “Flower Acres Baptist Church, Church on the Rock and Circle J have collectively raised about $8,000 in support of the convoy.”

The reception crowd of thousands met the line of several trucks with applause as they rolled into the church grounds, and not long after the truckers left their rigs, they were presented with the funds raised, along with pallets of food, water and supplies (not to mention hundreds of handshakes). One of the convoy’s local organizers, Andrew McCarthy, expressed the gratitude of the weary men and women that had traveled hundreds of miles the last few days.

“Most of us have had three, maybe four, hours of sleep these last few nights, and it feels great to see such support here,” McCarthy said. “It took Ottawa nine months for their convoy, and we threw this together in just three weeks.”

The trucker’s final stop will take them just outside Washington D.C., and while they planned to arrive coinciding with Tuesday night’s state of the union address, the delays have allowed the convoy to grow to just under 10,000 nationwide, with more truckers joining in every city they pass. 

“We want everybody unified in [our movement],” McCarthy said. “We don’t care who’s vaxxed and non-vaxxed; the mainstream media is trying to push that, but that’s not what we’re about. We have Trump voters, Biden voters; we have a little bit of everybody, so what we’re trying to show people is it’s a freedom of choice thing, above all else.”

As Pastor Hervey took the stage in front of the restless crowd, he directed everyone’s attention to a man on horseback waving an American flag atop a nearby hill. And as those clothed in everything from cowboy hats, religious bonnets and traditional native dress stood shoulder to shoulder, this group of Americans joined together in song, finishing with the hallowed line:

“For the land of the free, and the home of the brave!”