As Pro-Trump Caravans Hit Roads Across U.S., Organizers Are Upbeat Despite Tensions Car and truck convoys of Trump supporters rolled through Michigan, New York and North Carolina last week. These mobile rallies continued even after one turned deadly last month in Portland, Ore.
NPR logo

As Pro-Trump Caravans Hit Roads Across U.S., Organizers Are Upbeat Despite Tensions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/916497045/916625466" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
As Pro-Trump Caravans Hit Roads Across U.S., Organizers Are Upbeat Despite Tensions

As Pro-Trump Caravans Hit Roads Across U.S., Organizers Are Upbeat Despite Tensions

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/916497045/916625466" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Caravans of President Trump supporters are hitting the road across the country even after one of these mobile rallies turned deadly. This past weekend car and truck convoys rolled through Michigan, New York and North Carolina. And while most of these events have been peaceful, tensions have flared. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Hundreds of motorcycles, cars and trucks drove through the streets of Long Island last Saturday, waving Trump flags and honking their horns.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: It goes on and on and on.

SHAWN FARASH: We stretched for a very long distance - I mean, miles back.

ROSE: That's the organizer, Shawn Farash. Even he was surprised by the turnout.

FARASH: There's a lot of us out here. There's more of us out here than we know.

ROSE: Farash describes himself as just a regular guy. He works in advertising, not politics or show business. But he does a really good Trump impersonation.

FARASH: (Imitating Donald Trump) You're talking about all of these people. They come out in their cars. They don't have to do it, but they want to do it. And I tells you you don't have to trust the polls. Just look at the people who are showing up every weekend, the silent majority silent no more.

ROSE: In the age of social distancing, these boisterous caravans have spread from Long Island to Los Angeles. They're promoted on social media, sometimes by people who've never been politically active before. One event gained notoriety last month in Portland, Ore., where a supporter of a far-right group was killed after clashes between participants in the pro-Trump caravan and counterprotesters. And then there is what happened over the weekend in Elon, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORNS HONKING)

ROSE: On Saturday a pro-Trump caravan drove through town, hurling insults and white supremacist slogans at a lone protester on a street corner.

MEGAN SQUIRE: I heard exactly what they had to say, and it was hate.

ROSE: Megan Squire studies far-right extremist groups at Elon University, where she's a professor of computer science. Squire was holding up a Black Lives Matter sign. In the video she shot, one driver shouts, no, they don't. Others shout, white power.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: White power.

SQUIRE: I mean, he even, like, cupped his hands to make sure, and he enunciated. I remember thinking that at the time. I was like, wow. You really wanted me to hear that - creepy, really.

ROSE: The caravan was organized by a local activist who's well-known for defending Confederate monuments. He did not respond to a request for comment. Car caravans emerged in the spring as part of protest against state lockdown rules. Those protests were coordinated in part by pro-business lobbying groups in Washington. Organizers of the latest caravans say these are grassroots efforts and that they don't condone violence or racism.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHRISTINA MEDEMA: Thank you, guys. Wow. This is...

ROSE: Christina Medema addresses the crowd before a caravan she helped organize on Saturday in Grand Rapids, Mich. She's a stay-at-home mom and says she'd never done anything political until now. Video from the event is circulating on social media.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Most of America is on Trump's side.

ROSE: That clip and videos from other caravans have been posted by RT. The TV network is funded by the Kremlin. Experts say it's a Russian propaganda machine that tries to highlight divisions in U.S. society. But Christina Medema doesn't see it that way. She says American media just won't cover this story.

MEDEMA: It made me a little bit disappointed in our local news outlets for sure.

ROSE: She's not the only one who wonders why national media only cover these caravans when something goes wrong.

KEITH LEE: This is about making America patriotic again.

ROSE: Keith Lee is one of the organizers of MAGA Drag The Interstate, a group that's helping coordinate caravans on the major highways around big cities. Lee says convoy organizers deliberately try to avoid clashes with counterprotesters.

LEE: We don't condone any racism, racist comments. We don't want people dragging a Black Lives Matter flag underneath their truck. If we see any of that stuff, they're out of there.

ROSE: Lee says his group has helped organize caravans in 46 states so far. They're planning to host caravans nationwide during the first weekend in October.

Joel Rose, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.