A variety of U.S.-based groups are organizing convoys of trucks and other vehicles for this weekend and early next month, in support of protests in Canada against COVID-19 mandates.
The actions have roiled Canada with the effects spilling into the U.S. due to disruptions in the North American supply chain. They also soon could hit California.
An organization dubbed “Convoy to Save America” said on its website that two separate vehicle convoys will converge this weekend at the Peace Bridge, a U.S.-Canadian border crossing in Buffalo, New York.
One of the convoys was set to leave New York City Friday, with the second to follow from Mount Juliet, Tenn., on Saturday.
Meanwhile, such protests could reach Southern California in time for the Super Bowl. In addition, early next month, a rally planned for Indio is being promoted on a social media page followed by tens of thousands of accounts.
Pennie Fay, a “Convoy to Save America” founder, told Reuters that the lines of vehicles will consist of SUVs and minivans filled with supplies such as water, food, gas cards and blankets for Canadian truck drivers who arrive on the U.S. side.
“This weekend is about the Canadians, about supporting them,” said Fay, who is leaving from Nashville, “while at the same time bringing attention to the fact that we want the mandates gone. Remove them from state to state. We want a free country.”
In Canada, the trucker protest is entering its third week. Beginning as a protest over a vaccinate-or-quarantine mandate for cross-border drivers, its scope has expanded to include a more generalized opposition to government rules set up to control the spread of the virus over the past two years.
Truck drivers have occupied the Canadian capital of Ottawa and now are blocking the Ambassador Bridge, the busiest international land border crossing in North America. It’s also a critical lifeline for the automotive industry between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit.
Truckers also have blocked smaller border crossings in Canada’s Alberta and Manitoba provinces.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency Friday.
Calls for financial help for U.S. and Canadian truckers have been created on fundraising websites. A campaign on the Christian fundraising site Givesendgo.com has raised more than $8 million for Canadian truckers while another has raised more than $41,000 for truckers in the U.S.
Some U.S. Republicans have vowed to investigate GoFundMe after it took down a page accepting donations in support of protesting truck drivers.
On Friday, during a protest against New York’s school-mask mandates in Buffalo, demonstrators put money into cans passed around for donations for Canadian truckers. Protestors also rolled around a wheelbarrow that they filled with coins and bills for drivers.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned law enforcement agencies of a possible convoy of protesting truckers gathering at this weekend’s Super Bowl in Los Angeles, according to several media reports.
The agency said in a statement that it is tracking reports of a potential convoy traveling to several U.S. cities, but the statement did not allude to the Super Bowl.
A variety of U.S. groups are organizing on social media platforms such as Telegram, TikTok and Facebook, aiming to tap into frustration that appears to be growing among Americans over COVID-19 mandates.
In some cases, logistics for possible large convoys across the nation are part of those discussions.
One of the efforts, dubbed “The People’s Convoy,” which has 64,000 followers on Facebook, is planning a rally in Coachella Valley in Indio on March 4. The plan is to lead a convoy from California and other parts of the country to Washington, D.C., to show disapproval over mandates.
“It’s happening whether you like it or not, it’s going to happen,” Brian Brase, one of the group’s organizers, said in a TikTok post. “It’s not a right issue. It’s not a left issue. It’s not an anti-vax thing. It’s about the constitution and our rights as Americans.”
Brase could not be reached for further comments.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago and Carlo Allegri in Buffalo; editing by Mark Porter and Grant McCool)