One Year Since the 1776 Restoration Movement

Taylor Taranto at 1776RM
Taylor Taranto at the 1776 Restoration Movement

2022 was a different time.

Covid was still a part of the national conversation. Vaccine requirements for work were still in place and masks were required in many public places – including airplanes.

“End the mandates” rang out as a convoy of trucks and cars headed across the nation toward Washington, DC. This was the People’s Convoy, a copy of the right-wing movement that had originated in Canada.

But after a judge ended the TSA mask mandate, and other restrictions quickly fell, the fervor left the People’s Convoy, which wasn’t having much success against Beltway traffic or local bicyclists. They declared victory on May 23 and left the area.

But not everyone was ready to go home. A couple dozen formed a new group, the 1776 Restoration Movement, vowing to do what The People’s Convoy couldn’t: shut Washington down.

After a month of fundraising, and being trolled, #1776RM as it became to be known on Twitter, blocked a few lanes on the Beltway and then moved into DC to “occupy the lawn.” They would sit in lawn chairs and sleep in their cars along the National Mall until the constitutional republic was restored.

One year ago today, I wrote about them for the first time, amused by the contrast between their mighty goals (ending democracy) and plebeian existence (pooping in buckets).

It was a real-life case study of how cults form and dissipate. Watching them bicker and fall apart, I wrote:

Yet, the need for meaning in American life remains. Another right-wing cult will take its place because the followers demand it. They are just waiting to coalesce around a new leader and resume the struggle that gives meaning to their lives.

Which is exactly what happened. Most of the #1776RM cultists left DC. The few that remained joined a new and more extreme cult: Freedom Corner. This group of insurrectionists chant the name of Ashli Babbitt nightly outside the DC Jail as they demand freedom for convicted January 6th terrorists.

Freedom Corner is more threatening than #1776RM ever was. Their leader was arrested for assault, they prompted a prison brawl and they’ve attracted unstable individuals like Taylor Taranto, who was recently arrested in the woods behind Obama’s house. Before joining Freedom Corner, he was a member of #1776RM.

Freedom Corner is being torn apart by the same kind of infighting that doomed the 1776 Restoration Movement. As these right-wing cults grow more extreme, they grow smaller and more paranoid, until they’re left with just a few loyal adherents mumbling to themselves, trapped in a conspiracy-soaked world of their own creation.

One year after #1776RM, that is where we are.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

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