According to a U.S. official, the Pentagon will approve the deployment of 700-800 unarmed National Guard troops in Washington. This is in response to trucker convoys who plan to protest pandemic restrictions starting next week.
The U.S. Capitol Police and the District of Columbia government have requested the National Guard assistance. According to the official, the troops will be used to control traffic. They are expected to come from three states and the district’s National Guard.
Following recent protests by truckers in Canada, separate truck convoys were planned online through forums such as the People’s Convoy or the American Truckers Freedom Fund. Each truck convoy has a different starting point, departure date, and route. They are expected to arrive by Tuesday, March 1, in time for President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. However, others could arrive later.
John Kirby, Pentagon Press Secretary, stated that the D.C. government had asked the Capitol Police for National Guard personnel to “provide support at traffic control points within and around the District” as well as be available in the event of any disruptions at key traffic arteries. He also said no formal decision had been made.
These convoys are in response to the recent protest by Canadian truckers, which closed the busiest U.S. border crossing. They also occupied Ottawa’s streets for several weeks to protest the government’s pandemic restrictions. With more than 100 arrests, the multiple blockades were dismantled by police last Wednesday.
It is unclear if any U.S. convoys will attempt to shut down Washington’s streets like their Canadian counterparts in Ottawa. Some organizers of the convoy have suggested that they plan to temporarily roll through Washington before focusing on closing the Beltway which surrounds the capital.
The People’s Convoy has stated that the trucks will not be entering DC proper. They plan to depart from California Wednesday and arrive in D.C. by March 5.
The U.S. convoys demand that the government immediately lift what they call heavy-handed pandemic restrictions such as vaccine mandates and mask mandates. According to the American Truckers Freedom Fund website, the group is protesting the “unscientific and unconstitutional overreach” of the federal government.
High-quality masks provide strong protection against the spread of or contracting of COVID-19. Vaccines have been proven to be highly effective in preventing COVID-19 infection, particularly serious illnesses and death. As the pandemic enters its third year, conservatives have been more vocal in their opposition to government mandates.
Mike Landis, People’s Convoy organizer, stated in a video testimonial that the COVID vaccine is not yet proven but supported the individual’s decision to use it. Landis stated that the convoy was open for all vehicles and that the primary goal of the convoy is to press Biden to lift his national emergency.
Landis stated, “We want the government to bring back Constitution.” “We don’t want to live under a dictatorship communism style regime, as we are now.”
In March 2020, former President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in the United States. Biden declared last week that he intends to extend the state of emergency beyond its expiration on March 1.
Websites that organize American trucker convoys directly refer to the Canadian inspiration. The People’s Convoy website has a statement that pays tribute to “our brave, courageous neighbors to the nord — our Canadian brothers-and-sisters who led the charge.”
Robert Contee, Chief Metropolitan Police Department, stated Friday that his police department was monitoring shifting information closely and would devote additional police manhours to a rolling state heightened alert for the next few weeks. He warned residents of D.C. to be on the alert for traffic jams.
Contee stated that there will be traffic disruptions and other similar issues. “I believe we should be open with the public about some of our expectations, based on what we have seen in Ottawa, and what we might see in the District.”
Contee described the Ottawa standoff as “a remarkable situation — one we haven’t seen here in District of Columbia.”
Contee and Mayor Muriel bowser memorably predicted unrest a few days before the Jan. 6, 2020, insurrection at Capitol Building. They advised residents to stay inside and requested additional resources. However, the Capitol Police and National Guard were not prepared when Trump supporters invaded the Capitol Building, resulting in many deaths and injuries.
The lingering memories of the disaster have fuelled anxiety and speculation about the coming convoys. Bowser stated that she was not yet warning residents to stay away from the Capitol or the National Mall.
“We are not yet at the point of giving specific instructions to residents. Bowser stated that they will.