Mr Cruz met with the convoy organisers earlier this week, and joined the truckers on Thursday near their encampment in Hagerstown, Maryland.
During his visit, Mr Cruz rode in the passenger seat of the convoy’s lead truck.
Organiser Brett Brase, a trucker from Ohio, viewed Mr Cruz’s decision to visit the rally as a needed shot of adrenaline for a protest effort whose media interest was largely eclipsed by the war in Ukraine.
“There ain’t no ignoring a senator riding in the lead truck,” Mr Brase told to the crowd of truckers in Hagerstown. “That’s basically an endorsement of what we’re doing.”
Mr Cruz addressed the truckers during his visit to the site, noting that high gas prices - which he blamed on Joe Biden’s administration rather than the ongoing war in Ukraine - was hurting the trucker convoy and the rest of the US population.
“Your voice is being heard,” Mr Cruz said to the mass of protesters. “What the men and women want here is for the government to leave you the hell alone. ... That is the most American sentiment you could imagine.”
Mr Cruz’s anti-regulatory sentiments were put to the test in 2021 when Texas’s private energy provider, ERCOT, crumbled under the strain of a winter storm. Nearly 250 of his constituents died as a result. Mr Cruz rode out the storm by traveling with his family to Mexico.
Thus far, the protest has not achieved the magnitude or cohesion seen during the Canadian “Freedom Convoy” that shut down border crossings and clogged Ottawa’s streets for a month.
Like their Canadian forerunners, the “People’s Convoy” claims it is campaigning against emergency coronavirus mandates. However, most of those mandates have already been rolled back. Most states are lifting their masking requirements sometime this month and the federal government has moved to do the same. The Supreme Court already struck down Joe Biden’s attempt to pass a vaccine mandate for employers with more than 100 workers.
When presented with those facts, Mr Brase took credit, even though those moves had been in the works for weeks prior to the convoy. He said the convoy will not leave DC until all the mandates are lifted, and that for each day the convoy remains in the region, it will drive an additional lap around I-495, better known as the DC Beltway.
At least that’s what Mr Brase threatened on Monday. Since then, the convoy has driven on the Beltway, but not in increasing numbers of laps. It has also largely broken up due to the notoriously heavy Beltway traffic. On Wednesday the drive was canceled outright due to rain.
Researchers monitoring the convoy’s social media channels have noted frustration among some attendees who feel the current strategy of driving around and honking has been insufficient for drawing the nation’s attention.
Mr Brase warned his group against trying to make waves by taking the protest into Washington DC proper. He has stated that he fears federal agents will be waiting for them in the city.
“If you deviate from the plan, meaning you decide to break rank and bring your happy butts down to DC ... you are not representing the People’s Convoy in doing that,” he said. “Do not do that. Stick to the plan.”
He said that causing trouble in Washington DC was not necessary because lawmakers, like Mr Cruz, were visiting them in Maryland.
“It’s working,” he said. “They’re coming here now.”
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