Truckers may try to disrupt Super Bowl and the State of the Union, DHS memo says
The Department of Homeland Security says it has received reports that truck drivers who are protesting vaccine mandates will block roads in major cities in the coming weeks. The protests could potentially affect the Super Bowl in Los Angeles on Sunday and the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on March 1, according to an internal memo from DHS obtained by NPR.
The memo, which went out on Tuesday, was issued by the department's Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Current and Emerging Threats Center. The memo says there are currently no threats of violence, but the protest has the potential to "severely disrupt" traffic, emergency routes and federal government operations.
The group of truckers plans to start the protest in California and make its way across the U.S. to Washington, D.C., with more truckers joining along the way, the memo says.
"DHS is tracking reports of a potential convoy that may be planning to travel to several U.S. cities," a department spokesperson told NPR. "We have not observed specific calls for violence within the United States associated with this convoy and are working closely with our federal, state and local partners to continuously assess the threat environment and keep our communities safe."
"Freedom Convoy" protesters from Canada may join
The potential protest seems to mirror the "Freedom Convoy" protests from truckers in the Canadian province of Ontario, which started last month. They have been blocking traffic on the U.S.-Canada border, most recently near Detroit. The DHS memo says that Canadian police described the event as a "complete blockage" of one of the highways.
Truckers from these protests in Ottawa, the capital city, may also be joining the potential gathering in Washington, D.C., the DHS memo says.
The impacts from the protests in Canada have been significant. Ottawa is under a state of emergency, and officials, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have called on the protesters to leave. Over time, the protests have turned more hostile than was originally planned.
DHS finds a mapped route from LA to D.C. on social media
The memo also notes that DHS officials have been tracking social media posts around the Super Bowl, including ones with the hashtags #ShutDownSuperBowl and #SuperBowlTrafficking. According to relevant posts, which law enforcement officials started to track around Feb. 3, there were several social media posts with instructions on how an anonymous trucker convoy could disrupt the Super Bowl's security operations.
On Feb. 6, officials found a flyer posted online that said "Shut Down the Super Bowl," with details of a "medical freedom demonstration" near SoFi Stadium on the day of the game, Feb. 13. The flyer also mentioned a truck convoy.
Screenshots of maps with directions from Los Angeles to D.C. were also posted, as well as recommendations to travel to Washington and state capitals. But as of now, the memo notes that law enforcement officials in Washington, D.C., have not seen an uptick in hotel bookings in the area for the potential protests.
Ahead of the Super Bowl this Sunday, DHS says it has dedicated more than 500 people to support security measures around the event. Around 70,000 people are expected to attend the game, according to DHS, and the protest is potentially planned for 12 p.m. local time in LA.
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