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Alpena trucker to participate in People’s Convoy

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz C&S Carriers owner Travis Konarzewski poses next to the American flag displayed on one of his trucks. Konarzewski and other area truckers will join the People’s Convoy to Washington to protest government mandates.

ALPENA — C&S Carriers owner Travis Konarzewski said he’s willing to sacrifice his reputation and business as well as face criminal charges to participate in the People’s Convoy protest against government mandates held in Washington.

He said he is prepared for the fallout because, like the thousands of other truckers in the convoy, he believes it is important people’s voices are heard and that government officials know that many in the population are tired of having mandates and orders placed on them.

Modeled after recent trucker protests in Canada that closed border crossings such as the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, separate truck convoys have been planned through online forums with names like the People’s Convoy and the American Truckers Freedom Fund — all with different starting points, departure dates, and routes. Some are scheduled to arrive in time for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, though others may arrive afterward.

Konarzewski said coronavirus vaccine and mask mandates will be protested, as well as vaccine passports, which some states had considered.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and fully vaccinated people have a smaller chance of becoming seriously ill than those who haven’t received the jabs.

Konarzewski said he isn’t anti-vaccination but believes people should be able to decide what is placed in their body and should not fear losing their job and livelihood if they elect not to.

Proof of vaccination is required for travelers entering Canada, and Biden’s administration had mandated vaccination for health care workers and the military. Other attempted mandates, including one for all large companies in the U.S., were blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Konarzewski owns a trucking company in Alpena and he and other truckers in the area are leaving Alpena this morning to join the convoy of trucks headed to the nation’s capital to protest government mandates of all types. He said that although most people refer to the convoy as a protest, he sees it a bit differently.

“I don’t look at so much as protesting, but protecting,” he said. “We are protecting our rights. We are a free country and we want to remain that way, our freedom seems to be slipping. We want to see the country return to the values of the Constitution of the United States. That’s what this great country was built on.”

A Facebook page was started to share information about the convoy and Konarzewski’s journey, and he hopes many trucks meet at his garage to leave together at one time. Konarzewski said local donations have been pouring in to support the area trucker’s cause and added he has had many people contact him online or on the phone wanting to know what route the truckers are driving so they can greet, wave, and salute them when they pass through communities along the way.

“I have received calls from Grand Rapids, St. Johns, Bad Axe, Kalamazoo, from people who want to send money, meet us along the route and support us,” he said. “We have been gathering supplies in Alpena and we have about six pallets of supplies ready to go. The community support has been amazing.”

Konarzewski also has a collection of dozens of gift cards to use for food and gas and wads of cash that people in Alpena have donated to the cause and to have Konarzewski be their voice in Washington.

Konarzewski said he understands there could be action taken by the federal government. He said he saw what transpired in Canada recently after its government used its emergency authority to remove truckers and their rigs and arrested those who didn’t comply with the emergency orders.

“I’m worried, but I’m not worried enough to steer away from my values,” Konarzewski said. “At the end of the day, I believe in the United States of America and what it was and what it needs to be.”

Konarzewski said truckers are the backbone to daily life in the world because everything that people depend on is delivered by a truck at one point in the supply chain or another. He said he anticipates the government and media will paint truckers in a bad light, even though they intend to be peaceful and respectful, but he is prepared to work through the bad publicity.

“I expect it absolutely, but I’m not afraid of it,” he said. “Truckers have a loud voice, but we don’t use it often. I think we can be very effective because of how important our job is. The only thing we don’t deliver are babies.”

Konarzewski understands the convoy and protest, which he said he is ready to remain in Washington until the federal government acknowledges the concerns and vows to work with the truckers and other citizens to find a solution to the divide.

He understands having many trucks out of order and not making deliveries will put further pressure on an already stressed supply chain, but he added that positive change can only be made when people are a bit uncomfortable.

“There will be more disruptions, beyond the shadow of a doubt,” he said. “But, unfortunately, it takes disruptions like that to make people realize how precious their freedom is.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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