News coverage of a trucker protest seeking to clog the roads in and around Washington, D.C., this weekend prompted a schism between the ride's leaders. The ride's loosely organized leadership is now in agreement, however: truckers will not seek to "arrest" congressmen.
Longtime Georgia trucker Earl Conlon was until Monday morning the coordinator of truckers traveling to D.C. on Oct. 11-13. He claims credit for calling the protest, a vision articulated in part by former country music singer Zeeda Andrews along with social media promotion.
Conlon originally told U.S. News he would seek to arrest congressmen Friday for allegedly committing treason as other truckers circle the inner loop of the I-495 beltway "three lanes deep."
He's changed his mind.
Conlon still believes a "citizens grand jury," meaning a body of jurors convened without court authorization, has the power to issue indictments, but he told U.S. News in an update "the truckers are not doing any arresting."
Former Department of Justice attorney Larry Klayman has popularized the concept of citizen grand juries, but it's unlikely law enforcement would acknowledge such indictments.
"We want these people arrested, and we're coming in with the grand jury to do it," Conlon originally said Monday. "We are going to ask the law enforcement to uphold their constitutional oath and make these arrests. If they refuse to do it, by the power of the people of the United States and the people's grand jury, they don't want to do it, we will."
If police interfere with the I-495 convoy, Conlon said Monday, truckers would turn off the vehicles and make the road a parking lot.
Conlon's comments infuriated Peter Santilli, an online radio host who is not a trucker. Santilli is hosting a parallel rally in California and will not be joining the D.C. protest, but he's acting as a spokesman for an umbrella of nationwide rallies called "Truckers Ride for the Constitution."
Rather than seeking the arrest of lawmakers, Santilli told U.S. News in an email, "we are asking [congressmen] to voluntarily resign if they refuse to accept our peaceful demands to follow the U.S. Constitution and the law. If they refuse to follow the law, we the people will bring the free-market economy to a halt... If it results in a major traffic jam as we saw in Egypt – so be it."
Santilli says truckers and other participants will ask for the impeachment of President Barack Obama, but it's unlawful, he says, for truckers to "arrest" congressmen and he says it would be unsafe for truckers to turn I-495 into a parking lot.
Conlon snapped back at Santilli, who surprised him with an on-air radio call the trucker believed was a private conversation. Conlon said citizens do indeed have the authority to arrest public officials and that truckers can legally turn off their trucks on the road - if they're complying with regulations requiring a 34-hour "restart" after truckers "run out of hours" they're allowed to work.
"You're having your rally, I'm having mine," Conlon told Santilli. "You might as well find a new place to meet. ... I'm not going there to smile and blow my horn."