A convoyis bound for the Texas-Mexico border this weekend to show support for the Texas government in its against the federal government over the migrant crisis, raising concerns from some experts about potential violence.
While the “Take our Border Back” convoy started its journey from Virginia Beach, Virginia, earlier this week with just a few dozen cars and trucks, it had over 200 vehicles by Thursday as it departed Dripping Springs, Texas, for its final destination in Quemado, Texas, 20 miles from the border town of Eagle Pass, where the Texas National Guard has taken control of a public park and refused access to Border Patrol agents.
U.S. officials are tracking open-source intelligence related to the trucker convoy.
The convoy’s organizers have publicly pledged to keep the convoy peaceful, saying they made the determination not to actually enter Eagle Pass. However, a rally Thursday evening in Dripping Springs, packed with hundreds of attendees, included xenophobic language and conspiratorial statements. Speakers included former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, elected Texas officials, musician Ted Nugent, Christian nationalist pastors and reporter-turned-conspiracy theorist Lara Logan.
Proud Boys members, neo-Nazi groups and militias are also involved with the convoy, according to researchers.
“The eyes of the world are on Texas right now,” Palin said. “Now, more than ever, it’s required of us to stand up and fight for what’s right, because it’s unconscionable, it’s treasonous, what our own federal government is doing to us in actually sanctioning an invasion, a foreign invasion, of our country.”
Another speaker, Michael Yon, a regular guest on former Trump chief White House strategist Steve Bannon’s podcast “War Room,” echoed tenets of the so-called “great replacement theory,” a baseless ethno-nationalist belief that there is an intentional effort to replace the White population in the U.S. and elsewhere around the globe.
One of the convoy’s organizers, Pete Chambers, appeared on Alex Jones’ conspiracy-laded show InfoWars last week, touting his plans for the convoy. He told Jones he seeks to “pair up with law enforcement who are constitutionally sound,” adding that “we’re at 1774 right now.”
Freddy Cruz, a manager for monitoring and training at the Western States Center, a pro-democracy advocacy group, said that the white supremacist rhetoric coming from convoy members and speakers at Thursday’s rally raises alarm bells about the possibility of future violence against migrants.
“That is all problematic because they’re operating on a belief system, like the ‘great replacement’ narrative, that has had horrible consequences on American citizens,” Cruz said, referencing three major racially-motivated mass shootings in, , and in which the shooters espoused racist ideologies leading up to their attacks.
The League of United Latin American Citizens issued an alert this week claiming participants in the convoy may become violent towards immigrant communities and its members.
“We know that many of them are armed,” LULAC National President Domingo Garcia. “And many of them have extremist views, especially in terms of the fear-mongering and scapegoating of immigrants and Hispanics.”
In response to the convoy’s arrival, Border Patrol has moved migrants out of a large tent holding facility near Eagle Pass as a precautionary measure due to uncorroborated threats, a Customs and Border Protection official told CBS News.
A CBP spokesperson told CBS News in a statement Friday that it was “taking appropriate and necessary actions to keep our employees and migrants in our custody safe. We will remain vigilant and continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners.”
The convoy’s rhetoric has also sparked chatter among extremist groups and militias about whether they will either join it or take independent action along the southern border, Cruz warned.
“They’re all listening very closely,” Cruz said. “And we’re seeing some of these anti-Democracy groups acting and sort of mobilizing around the border, specifically targeting both migrants and humanitarians that are assisting them.”
In addition to Quemado, there are two other rallies being hosted by the convoy this weekend, with one event in Yuma, Arizona, and another in San Ysidro, California.
The Supreme Court last week ruled that the Biden administrationwhich Texas had installed along the border. However, also last week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from the Department of Homeland Security to give Border Patrol agents access to Shelby Park, a city-owned public park in Eagle Pass that was once a busy area of illegal crossings by migrants.
Former President Donald Trump, as well as House Speaker Mike Johnson, have publicly supported Abbott’s standoff over Shelby Park. Republican Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana wrote last week on social media that “the feds are staging a civil war, and Texas should stand their ground.” The post was shared widely by extremist communities.
— Camilo Montoya-Galvez, Nicole Sganga and Ken Molestina contributed to this report.