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Department for Transport warns convoys of truckers have potential to disrupt national road network

The Department of Transportation has warned that planned truck convoy protests across the United States could disrupt the national highway system and other critical transportation infrastructure, according to a safety advisory released Friday and obtained by Yahoo News.

The protests that shut down Canadian cities and affected U.S. commerce and travel could disrupt U.S. highways and other travel veins, according to the Federal Highway Administration’s alert to federal, state and local government agencies.

On Thursday, people block access to the Canada-US border crossing in Emerson, Manitoba. (John Woods/The Canadian Press via AP)

DOT agencies tasked with overseeing the nation’s transportation infrastructure “have been notified of an increase in calls for a convoy of truckers to block the National Highway System (NHS) and other arteries in the United States in widespread protest against mask and vaccine mandates,” the alert reads. “Specific mentions of cities include, but are not limited to, Los Angeles — coinciding with the Feb. 13 Super Bowl — and Washington, DC — potentially coinciding with the State of the Union address scheduled for March 1.”

The alert lists two main groups behind the protests and provides links to a dozen social media accounts being followed in connection with the planned protests across the United States. Still, the DOT says there remain many intelligence and information gaps that make it difficult to corroborate what is known. the nascent protest plans.

The DOT did not immediately return Yahoo News’ request for comment.

In addition to the DOT bulletin, Yahoo News obtained a Customs and Border Protection intelligence alert dated February 10. in the coming days,” the CBP alert reads.

In addition to ports of entry already impacted by ongoing protests in Canada, the CBP alert states that “efforts appear to be underway to expand protests to other ports of entry as well as within United States”. Specifically, the CBP alert points to planned protests taking place “between February 12 and 13 on the Niagara Peace Bridge between Buffalo, NY, and Fort Erie, Canada.” The Feb. 10 alert notes that CBP is monitoring online discussions related to plans to “interfere with the Super Bowl” in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Police officers patrol on foot as protest against COVID restrictions continues

Police officers patrol on foot as the protest against COVID restrictions continues in Ottawa, Canada. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP)

CBP’s alert details the impact to ports of entry along the Canada-U.S. border, where travel and commerce have been partially disrupted, diverted, or significantly delayed in multiple locations. He warns that automotive industry supply chain disruptions may be just the beginning of what is to come. Automakers have been particularly hard hit by the partial closure of the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, which, according to the Department of Transportation’s alert, handles about 30% of annual trade between Canada and the United States.

“As the protests persist, they will likely produce secondary impacts and have a high likelihood of additional impacts on supply chains across various industries,” the CBP alert warns. “Freedom convoys and similar events will likely continue to grow in popularity as long as vaccination mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts are maintained.”

A COVID protest in Ottawa

A COVID protest in Ottawa marked by traffic jams and the sound of truck horns reached its 15th day on Friday. (Nick Iwanyshyn/The Canadian Press via AP)

CBP and its apex agency, the Department of Homeland Security, are working to minimize the disruption to commerce inflicted by the border protests.

“DHS Customs and Border Protection continued to efficiently process inbound traffic at U.S. ports of entry while protecting public and national safety, despite road closures north of the U.S. border related to protests. underway in Canada,” a DHS spokesperson told Yahoo. News.

“To ensure the continued flow of trade and legal travel, CBP is working with our Canadian counterparts who route traffic through additional ports of entry to limit disruptions and ensure commercial trucks can enter the United States in a timely manner. .

The spokesperson also said CBP has added additional personnel and opened all available screening lanes and is in close communication with Canadian counterparts and other government and private entities impacted by border protests.

“DHS and its Canadian counterparts continue to work together to identify and respond to any potential threats to public safety or national security,” the DHS spokesperson said.

A truck convoy of COVID-19 vaccine mandate protesters

A truck convoy of COVID-19 vaccination mandate protesters blocks the highway at the busy US border crossing in Coutts, Alberta. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press via AP)

Originally sparked in response to a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border, the ongoing protests have snowballed, gaining traction and support from prominent Republicans in the states. United States, including former President Donald Trump, and sparking calls on social media for similar convoys to protest US coronavirus mitigation measures

On Wednesday, Yahoo News reported that DHS was warning police nationwide of plans for truck convoy protests being discussed online. The alert said protests could start as early as Super Bowl Sunday near the game in Los Angeles and are expected to travel across the country to Washington, DC, in early March, when the State of the Union address takes place. of President Biden. Law enforcement sources told Yahoo News there were concerns the convoy of truckers could shut down the nation’s capital, similar to the shutdowns seen in Canada this week.

A protester against COVID-19 restrictions

A protester against COVID-19 restrictions in Ottawa on Thursday. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press via AP)

The DOT memo released Friday singled out two main groups it said “appear to have become the de facto organizers of convoys from Canada and the United States: the Canada Freedom Convoy and the US People’s Convoy.” However, the DOT notes that “numerous social media profiles have been created in support of the convoy, with some followers exceeding 80,000.”

Among the groups that have emerged in recent days is Convoy to Save America, a Tennessee-based organization that describes itself on his website as “a new group formed to peacefully support the official Freedom Convoy 2022 in Ottawa”.

According to a press release dated February 9, Convoy to Save America plans to send two convoys to the Peace Bridge in Buffalo this weekend, the first of which will leave New York on Friday, followed by a second convoy leaving Mount Juliet, Tennessee, the Saturday.

“We are a basic Mama and Papa Bear convoy. We are not truckers. We use vans and cars,” Pennie Fay, spokesperson for Convoy to Save America, wrote in an email to Yahoo News.

Asked how many people the group plans to take part in the convoys this weekend, Fay wrote: “We don’t have a count. We are heading to Buffalo to rally peacefully as well as support truckers and drop off supplies.

A local NBC Affiliate in Buffalo reported on Friday that the Peace Bridge has already seen backups following ongoing protests that have closed other entry points and led to the diversion of truck traffic to western New York.