Story updated 3/16/2022 to correct hardware store reference
MOUNT GILEAD — Following the example of the “Freedom Convoy,” which occupied downtown Ottawa, Canada in January, the “People’s Convoy” departed southern California February 23 and made its way to Hagerstown, Maryland, crossing Indiana and Ohio along the way. Bruce Levings, 51, of Mount Gilead joined them.
Levings, born and raised in Mount Gilead, his mother, Mary Jane Levings, works at Joe’s True Value hardware store and drives semi-truck for an owner in Mansfield. He’s been driving truck for approximately 20 years; and he joined the convoy March 3 when it was in the Dayton area.
He has his wife’s support; Kandy Levings is tending to their life at home in his absence.
Levings heard about the convoy and considered participation.
“It’s just a great movement of the freedom of people, the freedom of choice; and people want to end the mandates with the masks, the vaccines. We just want to get all of our constitutional rights back that they took away,” he said.
Originally, he thought he would merely lend his support to the convoy when it came through Ohio. Then he decided to go on to Washington D.C.
“It’s just a great group of people,” Levings said, “they’re God-loving American patriots.”
The convoy boasts at least 1,000 vehicles on its way to Hagerstown, Md., a city two hours outside of D.C. Levings said, “It’s not just semi: it’s cars, campers, trucks, motorcyles.”
Since arriving in Hagerstown, convoy participants have been making loops around the Beltway: the highway that circles D.C. Levings said it takes 8-10 hours to drive the loop depending on how many loops they make.
Organizers have had the opportunity to share their concerns with legislators, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).
Levings said he doesn’t know when he will return to Ohio. He said he has a lot of support, and his bills are paid for now.
“I don’t need nothing out here, other than my personal supplies,” he said. Fuel for all the vehicles is provided. He said one day $65,000 was paid for fuel. They are also provided food and water. Donations come in every day. “They bring in little bags for drivers, gift cards, money, clothes. I don’t know how many blankets they brought in from the area because they knew it was getting cold.
“It’s just like a little Mount Gilead here. Everybody takes care of everybody. If you need something all you’ve got to do is ask,” Levings added. They also have medical and mechanical support.
Levings sleeps in the bunk over the cab of his truck. Some participants sleep in tents, or in their cars. His trucking employer comes and spends time with the convoy, as well, driving back and forth from Ohio to balance his work and family life.
“The message of The People’s Convoy is simple,” reads a press release issued by the group, “The last 23 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been a rough road for all Americans to travel: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and – not least – financially… it is now time to re-open the country… it’s time for elected officials to work with the blue collar and white-collar workers of America and restore accountability and liberty – by lifting all mandates…”
“I didn’t know a lot about it,” said Levings when he started, “It was just something I wanted to be part of. I feel like God pulled me this way. I don’t know why he chose me but there’s been a couple of different things happened. I say my prayers and then the next day things turn that way and I think ‘wow, this is awesome.”
He said they say prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance at their morning meetings. They also get updates from leaders about meetings with congressional leaders, safety advisements, and directions for how many laps they will drive that day.
“It’s peaceful,” he said. “Some of them [participants] get up and say why they’re here and tell their stories. And they just want to remind congress that they work for us. We don’t work for them; they work for us.”
People line up on overpasses to show support, though it’s not all positive. Some people say, ‘go home,’ he said. “I’ll tell you the craziest thing was the first day out, or the second day, we came across a bridge one guy was standing up on the bridge mooning everybody.”
Levings said the mandates have not affected him personally. “I went to work every day, but I took time off so others could work. There’s other people that it hit a lot harder. There’s people who have got the shot and they died. Just let people make their choice. Whatever you do it’s your belief, not theirs.”
“This is not about a left or right issue,” Levings added. “It’s not about Republicans or Democrats, it’s not political at all. It’s just freedom of choice: take the vaccine, don’t take the vaccine. It’s just people tired of the government trying to take away your Constitutional right.
“I’ve never seen so many people coming together in my life, like brothers and sisters. It’s a pretty awesome experience.”
The convoy will disperse when mandates end, Levings said. He doesn’t know when he’ll come home.
The convoy is actively accepting donations, 100 percent to be used for the convoy, through their online site to support the truckers and participants with fuel and supplies during the convoy. The official website is: ThePeoplesConvoy.org