Exclusive: DHS warns that trucker protests in U.S. could begin on Super Bowl Sunday

The Department of Homeland Security is warning law enforcement and public safety officials in the United States that a prolonged trucker convoy protesting vaccine mandates could begin on Feb. 13, when the Super Bowl is played in Los Angeles.

The warning of a trucker protest similar to the one that has brought Ottawa, Canada, to a virtual halt, states that “the convoy could severely disrupt transportation, federal government, and law enforcement operations through gridlock and potential counterprotests.”

According to senior law enforcement officials and documents obtained by Yahoo News, the warning circulated to law enforcement nationwide on Tuesday by DHS states that the agency “has received reports of a convoy of truckers planning to potentially block roads in major metropolitan cities in the United States in protest of, among other things, vaccine mandates for truck drivers.”

A view of the trucker protest in Ottawa, Canada
A view of the trucker protest in Ottawa, Canada, on Tuesday. (Adrian Wyld /Canadian Press via AP)

The DHS alert says that “the group intends to start in California as early as mid-February and travel to Washington, D.C., as late as mid-March, reportedly gathering truckers as they travel across the country,” adding that truckers from the protest in Ottawa may also head to Washington to participate.

The DHS document, which is marked unclassified and for official use only, notes that as of its release on Feb. 8, the U.S. trucker convoy “appears to be purely aspirational because the event is only being discussed online,” though it warns that “this could change quickly.”

A DHS source told Yahoo News that the U.S. trucker convoy “is absolutely a real concern."

"They are definitely going to follow the Canadian model and shut down Washington,” said the DHS official, referring to the massive demonstrations that have drawn hundreds of truckers and others to Ottawa since last week, disrupting traffic throughout the Canadian capital and prompting the mayor to declare a state of emergency. On Monday, protesters blocked off traffic in both directions along the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, shutting down one of the busiest international border crossings between the U.S. and Canada.

An agents wears a U.S. Customs and Border Protection badge
A DHS source told Yahoo News that a U.S. trucker convoy “is absolutely a real concern." (Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The DHS official said that a variety of U.S. law enforcement agencies were conducting calls and planning sessions to “figure out what to do” in the event that Washington is similarly brought to a standstill — which, the official said, is a “a real possibility.”

Initially sparked in response to a new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for truckers entering Canada, the ongoing Ottawa protests have snowballed in recent days. The Canadian trucker convoy has been embraced by prominent U.S. Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, and amplified by right-wing media like Fox News as well as on white supremacist channels on social media, according to a recent Politico report.

“At this time, we have no indication that individuals discussing participating in these activities in the United States are engaged in anything other than First Amendment–protected activity,” the DHS alert dated Feb. 8 states. “Nonetheless, DHS remains concerned that these events could have significant public safety implications or potentially be exploited by ideologically motivated actors to potentially act or encourage others to act violently.”

A DHS spokesperson gave Yahoo News this statement: “DHS is tracking reports of a potential convoy that may be planning to travel to several U.S. cities. 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. DHS will continue to share timely and actionable information with the public.”

A line of trucks waits for the road to the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor, Ontario to reopen
Trucks wait for the road to the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor, Ontario, to reopen on Tuesday after protesters blocked the road Monday night. (Geoff Robins/AFP via Getty Images)

Another federal law enforcement official who is involved in aspects of the planning ahead of a possible U.S. convoy told Yahoo News: “We are tracking this like it’s a real threat because we think it has the potential to cause all kinds of problems, violent or otherwise.”

“We don’t want a lot of angry people storming D.C., we’ve seen that before,” the law enforcement official said. “So for now, we monitor movements and see who these people are, if they pose a threat not just to D.C. but of course to anywhere else along the way.”

The DHS public safety alert issued on Tuesday stated that the proposed dates for the American version of Canada’s trucker convoy are intended to coincide with the Super Bowl, which is scheduled to take place in Inglewood, Calif., on Sunday, and President Biden’s upcoming State of the Union address on March 1 in Washington. However, the DHS source told Yahoo News the convoy isn’t likely to reach the nation’s capital until late March or early April.

Counterprotesters at the truckers' convoy in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Saturday. (Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)