It wasn’t supposed to happen. A truck driver from rural Washington state, concerned about the results of this year’s presidential election and the policies a new administration might bring, wanted to generate some discussion among friends.
“I decided to create a Facebook page where me and my buddies could gather to shoot the s**t about the policies that will be implemented if Trump is no longer the president,” said StoptheTires2020 founder Jeremy Rewoldt. He wasn’t ready for what happened next.
“I woke up the next morning and 10,000 people had joined,” he said. In the week following its Nov. 6 founding, the group accumulated more than 67,500 members. It’s still growing.
Thrust into a leadership role, Rewoldt said he struggled to learn the ropes of guiding a movement. He enlisted the help of additional administrators for the Facebook page, and has tried to clarify the purpose and positions of the group to the public. In a policy statement posted yesterday, he stated that the group’s mission, “was and still remains to be, our concern in reference to the negative affects (sic), that a green new deal or any ban on fracking, would have on our country.”
Rewoldt has been interviewed on FOX News and several networks that tend to lean conservative, which were attracted by the group’s opposition to president-elect Joe Biden’s stance on fracking and the Green New Deal.
“At one point, I had been up for 36 straight hours,” Rewoldt told The Trucker in an exclusive interview. “I told my fiancée, ‘I need a break.’ It’s been crazy ever since.”
He was on the job as he spoke, driving a shift that began at 4 a.m. in his home state of Washington. Concerned about harassment, he declined to provide details of the carrier he works for or the route he runs.
Because of its explosive growth, Rewoldt’s StoptheTires2020 group has struggled for clarity in its goals. The group called for a work stoppage on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, to protest the policies it believes Biden will implement upon taking office. A second work stoppage is scheduled for Nov. 26-29, which includes the Thanksgiving holiday and Black Friday, which is the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season.
Group members posted photos from the Veterans Day stoppage, some showing trucks parked at truck stops or empty store shelves, reportedly caused by the shutdown. Many posted comments in support of the movement, while others observed that there seemed to be as many trucks on the highways as on any other day.
Rewoldt addressed criticism he’s received for scheduling shutdowns to coincide with holidays.
“Think about it. A lot of drivers are shutting down for the holiday anyway. That means we get 50% participation in a shutdown, without even asking,” he said. With that many shut down, he said, the group doesn’t need to persuade many of the remaining drivers.
“If we can get another 25% to shut down for the cause, that’s 75% of the truckers not running. That’s enough to get attention for our cause,” he continued.
Other protest groups, such as the Facebook group The Disrespected Trucker have been in communication with Rewoldt and other leaders of StoptheTires2020, but no agreement has been reached on combining forces at the time of this writing.
“I’m not going to take a chance on changing our purpose,” Rewoldt explained. “If another group wants to hold an event in support (of StoptheTires2020), that’s fine, as long as they aren’t blocking highways.”
Rewoldt says the group is opposed to actions that impede traffic.
“I am 100% against blocking or slowing traffic,” he said. “I think those sorts of actions harm our image in the eyes of the public. It just makes us look worse.”
The group also opposes any interference with the shipment of medical supplies. “At this time, with COVID and everything, we can’t risk lives,” Rewoldt noted.
Asked what success for his group would look like, Rewoldt had few specifics, stating he didn’t know who he could trust if someone offered a settlement.
“My main focus would be for senators to actually contact me,” he said. “If FOX News can get my phone number, so can a senator.”
Rewoldt described a scenario in which at least one senator from each state contacted a carrier and arranged to ride along with a driver “so they could see what’s actually going on and take it back to the president and to Congress.” At that point, “I will end the shutdown if senators will contact me,” he stated.
Plans for any actions beyond the Thanksgiving weekend shutdown, or whether the group will become “Stop the Tires 2021,” have not yet been finalized.
“We’re hoping that we’ll see results from the Thanksgiving weekend stoppage,” Rewoldt said. “We’ll reevaluate then for future plans.”
In the meantime, Rewoldt wants anyone interested in the Stop the Tires movement to understand one thing: “This is not about me; it’s not about you. It’s about every hard-working person.”
UPDATE: Since this article was published, the group has called canceled the planned work stoppage. Click here to read the story.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.