US faces its own trucker convoy, intel warns Biden
The US Department of Homeland Security has warned its police partners and the administration of President Joe Biden that a group of truckers may seek to emulate the Canadian Freedom Convoy, setting out from California with the intent of arriving in Washington, DC as a protest against vaccination mandates. The agency pointed out on Wednesday that such a protest could disrupt the Super Bowl or Biden’s SOTU address.
The agency reportedly wrote in a memo to police that it had “received reports of truck drivers potentially planning to block roads in major metropolitan cities in the United States in protest of, among other things, vaccine mandates.” The memo suggested the convoy would begin in California in mid-February, potentially interfering with the February 13 football championship game or Biden’s March 1 speech.
However, a Facebook group calling itself The People’s Convoy suggests a later timetable, with participants meeting in California’s Coachella Valley for a rally to “defeat the unconstitutional mandates” on March 4 and setting out eastward from there. It’s not clear if the organizers have any links with their Canadian counterparts. Similar protests have been popping up in Europe, scaring governments enough for France to ban truck convoys.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a trade group boasting over 150,000 member truckers in North America, asked Biden earlier this week to exempt professional truck drivers from the vaccination requirements his administration has imposed for non-US essential workers crossing into the country by land. A spokesperson for the trade group said she supported members’ right to protest but that the organization would not participate officially, instead asking Congress to “listen to and take action on the concerns of truck drivers that have been expressed to them for years.”
Canada’s Freedom Convoy has brought Ottawa to a standstill for the last two weeks, pouring into the city to protest vaccination mandates and health passports, and honking their horns to make their presence impossible to ignore. PM Justin Trudeau has so far refused to budge on the issue, dismissing the thousands of big rigs as a “fringe minority” with “unacceptable opinions,” while police have allegedly stolen fuel and other supplies paid for and belonging to the protesters.
While the truckers have deliberately avoided affiliating themselves with any political movement, their protest may already have had an effect on government, at least at the local level - the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta have announced plans to repeal some of their Covid-19 mandates.
‘Essential’ workers who cross the border - like many of the truckers taking part in the Freedom Convoy - are required to be fully vaccinated, according to orders passed by the US and Canadian governments that took effect last month. While many of the truckers in the Canadian convoy have received the shot, they have made it clear the protest is about the ability to choose what to put in one’s body rather than a condemnation of the Covid-19 vaccines themselves.