Magdalena Breyer, NORTHCOM and Extremism Teams
Christina Valdez, Elena Alice Rossetti, Editor
January 31, 2024
Take Our Border Back Convoy Poster
The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT to local communities and federal and state authorities in Texas, Arizona, and California due to the rise of violent online rhetoric ahead of the “Take Our Border Back Convoy” rallies on February 3, 2024. On January 12, a “coalition of concerned Americans” posted an online press release announcing the six-day-long Southern Border Convoy and multi-city rallies on February 3. The press release emphasized the convoy’s goals: to protest peacefully, demand the upholding of the US Constitution, stop drug and human trafficking, and call for prompt action to secure the borders. It called on “active and retired law enforcement and military, Veterans, elected officials, business owners, ranchers, truckers, bikers, media, and LAW-ABIDING, freedom-loving Americans” to participate. The three scheduled rallies on February 3, 2024, will be in San Ysidro, California from 0900 to 1100 local time; in Yuma, Arizona from 1200 onwards local time; and in Quemado, Texas from 1200 onwards local time. The East Coast Convoy departed Virginia Beach on January 29 and will split in Texas on February 1 to head to either Quemado or Yuma. The West Coast Convoy will meet for the rally in San Ysidro on February 3 before continuing to Yuma. Despite organizers calling for a “peaceful assembly,” online rhetoric has grown more violent amid growing tensions between the Texas state and federal governments over the state’s border policy.
CTG is on HIGH alert for the safety of federal authorities, immigrants, and local communities near Quemado, Yuma, and San Ysidro as violent rhetoric continues to circulate online ahead of the scheduled rallies on February 3. Despite the organizers’ calls for peaceful assembly, their use of charged rhetoric such as “invasion” and “take our border back” will VERY LIKELY lead to some participants perceiving the convoy as a prompt for direct action. Far-right individuals and groups will VERY LIKELY leverage the opportunity to mobilize and instigate violence, LIKELY splitting from the convoy and heading to the US-Mexico border at Eagle Pass to engage with border patrol authorities and immigrants. They will VERY LIKELY justify their actions by reiterating the alleged failure of the federal government to protect Americans and employing Christian nationalist rhetoric, VERY LIKELY framing themselves as doing the duty of God. Texas authorities are UNLIKELY to increase safeguarding measures in Quemado or at Eagle Pass VERY LIKELY due to their support of the convoy. The intensification of the border policy dispute between the federal and Texas governments in the two weeks leading up to the convoy will VERY LIKELY prompt a higher turnout of participants motivated by anger and frustration, VERY LIKELY increasing the risk of violence.
On January 12, 2024, a group of “concerned Americans” calling themselves “WE THE PEOPLE” announced plans for the “Take Our Border Back Convoy” to demand the upholding of the US Constitution, protest peacefully, stop drug and human trafficking, and call for prompt action to secure the borders. The so-called “Southern Border Convoy” is set to end with three rallies on February 3 across California, Arizona, and Texas. The first rally will occur in San Ysidro, California from 0900 to 1100 local time, followed by rallies in Yuma, Arizona, and Quemado, Texas from 1200 onwards local time. The organizers initially indicated that the Texas rally would take place at Eagle Pass, which has been at the center of border policy disputes between the federal and Texas state governments, before moving the rally to Quemado to allegedly ensure the safety of law enforcement and border workers.
The Southern Border Convoy will comprise the East Coast Convoy and the West Coast Convoy. The official website provides maps and routes outlining the day-by-day itinerary of both convoys, including recommendations of hotels participants can stay at. The East Coast Convoy departed Virginia Beach on January 29, and is set to split in Texas upon arriving on February 1, with some participants heading to Quemado and others to Yuma. Members of the West Coast Convoy will meet for the rally in San Ysidro on February 3 before continuing to Yuma.
The press release invited “active and retired law enforcement and military, Veterans, elected officials, business owners, ranchers, truckers, bikers, media, and LAW-ABIDING, freedom-loving Americans” to participate in the convoy, emphasizing their First Amendment rights and the alleged entry of “thousands of illegal entrants, criminals and known terrorists.” WE THE PEOPLE created official Telegram, X, Rumble, and Discord (which has since been removed) channels and accounts to facilitate communication between organizers and participants. They also created a GiveSendGo fund page, receiving exponentially larger donations over the past week.
Christian nationalist imagery and language play a pivotal role in the convoy’s messaging and presentation. The official poster and website feature the image of a truck emblazoned with “JESUS IS MY SAVIOR.” The website describes the convoy as a gathering for “peaceful assembly & prayer,” and includes a prayer by one of the organizers on the page. Some of the organizers and sponsors have established connections with various Christian nationalist groups and organizations. In addition, organizers confirmed that they chose Virginia Beach as the starting point for its symbolic significance as the site of the 1607 dedication of the US to God.
Despite these calls for a prayer-centered and “peaceful assembly,” the messaging from WE THE PEOPLE has been inconsistent. One of the main organizers initially called for a collaboration with law enforcement to hunt down migrants using a “find, fix, and finish” approach on Alex Jones’s InfoWars show. The convoy’s promotional video opens with blaring alarm sirens as the words “invasion alert” flash over footage of migrants crossing the border. Discussion between supposed participants and on far-right platforms echoes this urgency and potential for violence. Online discussions frequently reference the escalating tensions over the US-Mexico border following the Supreme Court of the US (SCOTUS) ruling and ongoing deadlock between the federal and Texas state governments. Some users are drawing parallels to the 1776 American Revolution, indicating that they will be armed for any confrontation, while others are expressing hostility toward border patrol agents who are allegedly letting terrorists into the country. Despite the change in rally location, several individuals expressed their intent to converge on Eagle Pass, a focal point of the national border policy debate. There is evidence of growing paranoia online, with some fearing that the convoy is a false flag operation and a trap by federal authorities similar to January 6, 2021.
The strong focus on promoting “peaceful assembly” by convoy organizers is almost certainly a tactical decision, very likely with the intention of mitigating legal liability in the case of violent actions by convoy participants. It is unlikely that the emphasis on peace solely reflects a commitment to non-violent principles, considering the mix of peaceful and aggressive rhetoric and imagery in their statements and releases. This contradictory rhetoric has very likely sent mixed messages to participants, very likely causing confusion among individuals regarding the expectations and nature of the convoy. The intent for peace is very likely not uniformly shared among all participants, with some very likely inclined to maintain peaceful conduct, while others very likely feel compelled to take matters into their own hands. Given the prevalence of violent rhetoric among certain users online, it is unlikely that the 6-day convoy will remain entirely peaceful throughout its duration.
The ongoing dispute over border policies is almost certainly catalyzing heightened public interest and tensions in border-related issues. This escalation, in the context of the recent SCOTUS ruling and the federal-state standoff, will very likely drive higher support and turnout for the rallies than initially anticipated. The significant increase in donations on the WE THE PEOPLE’s GiveSendGo page is very likely indicative of the growing momentum behind the convoy. The increasing media attention to the border dispute over the past week will likely mobilize individuals who resonate with the convoy’s objectives but were previously undecided about participating. Such last-minute joiners will likely include individuals motivated by recent developments or who are more radicalized, likely increasing the risks of violent escalations and incidents. The size and intensity of the convoy will very likely depend on internal and external forces such as the convoy’s ability to maintain harmony among participants and the events prior to February 3.
Despite the official relocation of the Texas rally from Eagle Pass to Quemado, some participants will almost certainly head to Eagle Pass because of its significance in the broader context of the border policy debate. Those heading to Eagle Pass will likely have a higher propensity for direct action, likely including more radical elements within the convoy such as far-right activists or militant groups. They will likely engage in more conspicuous forms of protest, ranging from armed demonstrations to direct interactions with border patrol agents, immigrants, or local communities. Among the convoy locations, Eagle Pass will very likely be more at risk of violent incidents considering its symbolism in the ongoing dispute. It is unlikely that Texas authorities and law enforcement will deploy additional security measures at Eagle Pass due to their very likely support of the convoy.
There will very likely be intra-convoy tensions stemming from different goals and concerns over potential federal infiltration, very likely creating mistrust among various participant groups. Such paranoia will very likely hinder the convoy’s ability to organize effectively, with a roughly even chance of some drivers altering their routes and gathering at unplanned locations. Some individuals will likely remove themselves from the convoy, fearing legal repercussions similar to those on January 6, 2021. Participants and far-right individuals will almost certainly attribute any violent incidents during the convoy to undercover federal operatives, very likely fueling conspiracy theories among these groups. Far-right news and media outlets will very likely use this alleged federal involvement to reinforce the narrative of victimization and government interference, very likely exacerbating the ongoing disputes over the US-Mexico border.
CTG has applied the Pathway to Violence matrix to assess the risks of potential violent actions during the “Take Our Border Back Convoy.” This matrix, incorporating research from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and academia, outlines the six phases individuals tend to undergo before committing acts of violence. The purpose of the convoy and mixed messages from its organizers, including aggressive rhetoric such as “invasion,” are indicative of grievances and violent ideations among certain participants. Online references to the ongoing border dispute, comparisons to the American Revolution, and calls to be armed indicate that some participants are almost certainly in the advanced stages of considering aggressive actions. CTG’s analysis suggests that the preparation phase of the Pathway to Violence is very likely underway, with border developments and online discussions very likely to catalyze direct action. Indicators of violence will very likely include online discussions about tactics and reconnaissance of rally locations or border sites.
CTG recommends law enforcement agencies in the affected areas to strategize for a range of scenarios. Given the uncertainty about the convoy’s peacefulness, law enforcement should prepare for various outcomes, from peaceful assemblies to potential unrest. Officers should employ de-escalation tactics and crowd control techniques to minimize the risk of violent incidents. This approach will help maintain order and limit the opportunities for conspiracy theories to arise. CTG recommends ensuring clear communication channels, mobilizing additional resources, and coordinating intelligence sharing with federal and state authorities.
CTG recommends federal authorities strengthen their security measures at Eagle Pass due to the heightened risk of unauthorized gatherings and confrontations. Authorities should deploy additional federal law enforcement officers and support staff to Eagle Pass to deter unlawful activities and protect immigrant populations. Support staff should include negotiators and specialists in crowd psychology.
CTG recommends enhancing intelligence and surveillance operations in the days before and after February 3, monitoring for unusual and suspicious activities and movements. Monitoring tools should include cyber technologies and aerial surveillance. CTG recommends allocating specific teams to monitor for any shifts in the plans or rhetoric of participants.
CTG recommends that local communities near Yuma, San Ysidro, Quemado, and Eagle Pass stay vigilant and informed. Members of local communities should avoid engaging with convoy participants to minimize the risk of escalation and violence. Local authorities should advise communities of potential risks, encouraging them to take appropriate safety measures and report suspicious activities.
CTG’s NORTHCOM and Extremism analytical teams will continue to analyze and monitor further developments, such as statements, threats, or attacks by participants of the Southern Border Convoy. These teams will work closely with CTG’s Digital Targeter program and the Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (WATCH) team to gather additional information in real time and warn the public in the event of a threat escalation or attacks.
CTG assesses that the current threat climate is HIGH amid escalating tensions driven by the ongoing border policy dispute. The charged rhetoric by organizers and participants, mixed messaging about peaceful intentions, and the symbolic significance of locations like Eagle Pass very likely increases the risk for violence. The evolution of the convoy and its outcomes will almost certainly be contingent on both its internal dynamics and the evolving border situation. Framing the convoy as being in service of God will very likely galvanize and intensify potential actions taken by splinter factions. It is very likely that a single event in the border dispute could accelerate shifts in the convoy’s dynamics, including increased involvement and more aggressive actions toward border patrol workers and immigrant communities. The volatility of the border dispute is likely to persist indefinitely, very likely extending its influence into the November elections.
Analysis indicates that there is a HIGH PROBABILITY of incidents of unrest and violence during the “Take Our Border Back Convoy.” The convoy’s dynamics, coupled with the intensifying border policy disputes and the symbolic significance of locations like Eagle Pass, will ALMOST CERTAINLY exacerbate tensions and increase the likelihood of confrontational actions. Such actions will VERY LIKELY target border patrol agents and immigrant populations, LIKELY taking the form of verbal harassment and violent interactions. The convoy will VERY LIKELY struggle to maintain internal cohesion due to fears of federal infiltration, with participants and far-right pundits VERY LIKELY attributing any acts of violence to undercover operatives. The online circulation of this disinformation will ALMOST CERTAINLY further polarize the political landscape, VERY LIKELY creating further rifts between Republican-led states and the federal government and solidifying state rights and immigration as central issues in the November 2024 election.
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 CTG Threat Hunter via Truth Social
 CTG Threat Hunter via Rumble
 CTG Threat Hunter via InfoWars
 The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) Pathway to Violence by Lydia Baccino