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FLASH ALERT: THE CAPITAL BELTWAY PROTEST’S IMPACT ON THE DC METRO AREA

Updated: Apr 3

Analysts: Marina Tovar, Keanna Grelicha, Alberto Suarez, Sofia Pantoula, Dja Camara, Brianna Corrie

Clea Guastavino, Demetrios Giannakaris, Cassandra Townsend, Senior Editors

Week of Monday, February 21, 2022


US Truck Convoy GiveSendGo Advertisement[1]


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for the Capital Beltway (Beltway) protest organized by the People’s Convoy and American Truckers Freedom Convoy.[2] Truck convoys are expected to arrive from California, Georgia, and Ohio, and plan to occupy the Beltway around Washington, DC on March 1, 2022,[3] after similar protests in Canada and the US-Canada border halted traffic and trade, on February, 10, 2022.[4] The organizer of the Beltway protest, Bob Bolus, claims no intention to enter Washington, DC but to stay in the immediate vicinity.[5] Law enforcement has raised concerns about the convoy’s plans to disrupt traffic in Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia.[6] The trucker convoy blockade in the Washington Metropolitan Area (WMA) will very likely disrupt distribution of essential goods, prevent commuters from attending work and school, and restrict first responders’ ability to effectively address emergencies. Protesters and counter-protesters will likely engage in violent demonstrations near the White House and US Capitol Building due to increasing tensions and opposing political views, almost certainly attracting extensive media coverage.


CTG is on HIGH alert for the Beltway protest that will take place in the WMA as truck convoys begin their travel to WMA on Wednesday, February 23, 2022.[7] The anticipated high volume of traffic in the vicinity of Washington, DC will ALMOST CERTAINLY prevent regular travel in and out of the city and surrounding area. A traffic standstill will very likely disrupt the exchange of goods and services due to commuters not traveling freely to WMA. Protesters and counter-protesters are LIKELY to engage in altercations that will LIKELY lead to physical violence. Protesters will VERY LIKELY respond with physical violence to law enforcement’s efforts to disperse blockades in an attempt to fortify their mobilization efforts. A protester or a member of law enforcement being injured or killed will VERY LIKELY lead to increased violence from both parties. The death of a member of law enforcement will LIKELY result in the escalation of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) of the District of Columbia (DC) involvement with the use of weapons to mitigate the violent outbreak.


The Beltway protest is expected to encircle the WMA with their trucks using the highway.[8] The People’s Convoy spokesman, Bob Bolus, stated the convoys would not enter Washington, DC proper.[9] Other protesters said they intend to actively shut down Washington, DC, creating conflicting claims about the exact location of the protests.[10] Protesters' lack of organization will likely lead to a scattered concentration of attendees at various points along the Beltway or secondary routes. A lack of concentration on the Beltway will likely not create heavy traffic, minimizing possible delays for emergency services, law enforcement, and commuters. The US National Guard Bureau (NGB) will deploy 700 unarmed National Guard members to conduct domestic surveillance activities, provide support at designated traffic posts, and provide command and control.[11] US NGB not carrying firearms could likely impact their ability to protect themselves and civilians if a protester or counter-protester attacks.


Traffic Disruptions

Modeled after recent trucker protests in Canada, US trucker convoys are expected to occupy and halt traffic and trade in the WMA starting February 23, 2022.[12] Traffic blockades will very likely delay the response time of law enforcement and emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicle delays could very likely impact the provision of medical aid, increasing the risk of unaddressed injuries and casualties. Law enforcement’s delayed response could likely result in increased minor crimes, including property damage and theft, as attackers will likely exploit the expected delay. If the Beltway is successfully occupied, the supply chain will almost certainly face disruptions and commercial businesses are unlikely to receive necessary goods for standard operations. Workers commuting to Washington, DC will almost certainly face difficulties entering the city, likely creating disruptions to business productivity. Workers and supplies not arriving in time will likely impact company’ revenues and generate lack of trust among customers, who will likely replace the services with alternative providers. The People’s Convoy and American Truckers Freedom Fund will likely use the traffic blockade and supply chain disruptions to indicate unpreparedness in response from the Biden Administration.


Convoy routes plan to drive through Washington, DC, and concentrate their trucks and convoys on the Beltway, aiming to block the principal highway surrounding the city.[13] Traffic blockades will very likely disrupt normal governmental and commercial operations, likely causing these actors to shift to fully remote operations temporarily. The increased presence of 18-wheeler trucks will almost certainly increase air and noise pollution, likely resulting in increased levels of traffic disturbances, such as barriers on highways or parking and traffic light violations. Increased traffic disturbances will almost certainly contribute to a substantial presence of law enforcement around the trucks and protests. The increase in law enforcement circulating these areas will very likely leave other Washington, DC areas open to protesters expanding their presence in the city, likely further impacting the commute of Washington, DC residents to their jobs. In response to traffic blockades, Washington, DC residents will likely use the metro or walk, likely increasing pedestrian traffic. An increase in metro users will very likely cause delays in residents reaching their work as the metro carts have limited capacity. The delays will likely impact businesses’ hours of operations and productivity.


Protests


Some convoy organizers plan on briefly attending the protest in Washington, DC.[14] Convoy participants are likely to demonstrate in Washington, DC. Demonstrations will likely attract new protesters and significant media attention. Protesters from The People’s Convoy and American Truckers Freedom Fund will almost certainly utilize news coverage for recruitment and outreach. Protesters oppose the pandemic restrictions and mask enforcement mandates, arguing they are “under a dictatorship communist-style regime,”[15] and protesting “the unscientific and unconstitutional overreach of the federal government.”[16] Protesters are likely to gather in symbolic places like the White House or the US Capitol Building to boost media attention. The gathering of people at these symbolic places could very likely result in the appearance of counter-protesters who want to protect the integrity of the structures. Violent protests are likely to emerge if protesters and counter-protesters engage in altercations. If law enforcement disperses the blockade or the groups of protesters, the protesters will likely respond violently as they will likely try to reinforce their mobilization efforts. In the process of dispersing the street demonstrations, if a protester or law enforcement member is wounded or killed, this will very likely lead to increased violence from both sides. If a public authority is injured or killed, the Washington, DC MPD will likely employ weapons, like tear gas or police riot shields, to mitigate violence and protect themselves.


CTG assesses there is a HIGH PROBABILITY of violent protests between the Capital Beltway protesters and counter-protesters or law enforcement efforts to disperse demonstrations. Non-participating civilians in the surrounding areas are LIKELY to be potential victims of violent protests as they could LIKELY be mistaken for counter-protesters. Capital Beltway protesters could LIKELY interpret civilian vocal responses or aggressive gesticulation as an offensive attitude and attack them. Blocking the Beltway will VERY LIKELY delay law enforcement and first responders’ response times, LIKELY increasing the risk of people in need of medical assistance not receiving aid in a timely manner. Traffic disruption is LIKELY to delay the arrival of supplies and workers, impacting businesses’ revenues and customer trust.


CTG recommends law enforcement agencies and public authorities remain vigilant and monitor social media channels to anticipate potential attacks derived from the protests. CTG advises police and law enforcement to plan alternative traffic routes in case of a traffic blockade and organize traffic controls to ease traffic on WMA. CTG recommends civilians follow guidelines given by public authorities and remain vigilant about potentially violent protests. The Counterintelligence and Cyber (CICYBER), Weapons and Tactics (W/T), and Counter Threat Strategic Communications (CTSC) Teams will continue to monitor developments in US truck convoy protests and their security implications. The NORTHCOM and CICYBER Teams will cooperate with CTG’s Specialty Teams to monitor this threat’s development and gather data to provide accurate and up-to-date recommendations and countermeasures. CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) Officers will continue to monitor the development of the protests and provide up-to-date reports of this threat.


 

[1] Found a Christian site!, Facebook, February 3, 2022, https://www.facebook.com/groups/2513824042237181/permalink/3256676731285238

[2] National Guard readies ahead of planned trucker protest in DC, ABC News, February 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/US/ahead-trucker-convoy-protests-defense-secretary-lloyd-austin/story?id=83056780

[3] Ibid

[4] In Canada, “Freedom Convoy” Descends on Ottawa to Protest Vaccine Mandates, The New York Times, February 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/29/world/americas/canada-trucker-protest.html

[5] National Guard readies ahead of planned trucker protest in DC, ABC News, February 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/US/ahead-trucker-convoy-protests-defense-secretary-lloyd-austin/story?id=83056780

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] National Guard will help D.C. control traffic for truck convoys, NPR, February 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/02/23/1082484747/national-guard-to-help-d-c-control-traffic-for-truck-convoys

[10] National Guard to Help D.C. Manage Possible Trucker Protests, Time, February 2022, https://time.com/6150370/national-guard-dc-truckers/

[11] Request for National Guard Troops Approved Ahead of Possible DC Trucker Protests, NBC Washington, February 2022, https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/national-guard-troops-requested-for-possible-dc-trucker-protests/2980156/

[12] Ibid

[13] National Guard will help D.C. control traffic for truck convoys, NPR, February 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/02/23/1082484747/national-guard-to-help-d-c-control-traffic-for-truck-convoys?t=1645622909145

[14] National Guard to help D.C. Manage Possible Trucker Protests, Time, February 2022, https://time.com/6150370/national-guard-dc-truckers/

[15] Ibid

[16] National guard troops to be deployed in DC as trucker convoy protests loom, The Guardian, February 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/22/national-guard-deployed-dc-trucker-convoy

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