Washington, D.C.–In response to trucker convoys protesting against pandemic restrictions, the US is deploying hundreds of unarmed National Guard troops to Washington. US Capitol police and the District of Columbia government submitted a request to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, as it appears that US truckers intend to replicate recent trucker protests that paralyzed the Canadian capital, Ottawa.
The National Guard troops will “provide support at designated traffic posts, provide command and control, and cover sustainment requirements” from Saturday until 7 March, according to a statement. Some 50 “large tactical vehicles” will be stationed at traffic posts 24 hours a day, the statement said. The soldiers will not carry firearms or participate in law enforcement.
Although no solid decision to the deployment or number of troops had yet been made but up to 800 National Guard members will be deployed ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address amid concerns about the protest convoy truckers heading to Washington DC for the event.
The Pentagon has confirmed that National Guard personnel will be asked to “provide support at traffic control points in and around the District” and to be alert for “possible disruption at key traffic arteries”.-Daily Mail On social media, several protest groups have shared maps and routes of convoys going to Washington DC this week and into March.
In Maryland, Virginia, and the nation’s capital, law enforcement agencies are monitoring potential protests, and security for Mr. Biden’s SOTU address on 1 March has been stepped up amid fears that protesters may disrupt the event.
Capitol Police reported last week several trucker convoys were planning to converge on Washington around the time of President Biden’s State of the Union address. According to Bob Bolus, an organizer of the protest, his group aims to shut down the Beltway, a highway encircling Washington.
“I’ll give you an analogy of that of a giant boa constrictor. That basically squeezes you, chokes you and it swallows you, and that’s what we’re going to do DC,” he said.
Canadian truckers had protested the closure of a bridge linking Windsor, Ontario, with Michigan – the busiest border crossing between the two countries. The trucks also blocked Ottawa’s streets with hundreds of trucks.
Initially, truckers protested against a mandate for vaccines for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canadian border, but ultimately, the protests became broader in their opposition to pandemic restrictions and the Trudeau government.
In response, Canada invoked emergency law for the first time, detained convoy leaders, and froze truckers’ bank accounts. Anyone who assisted or abetted the protestors after the Emergency Powers were enacted was classified as a terrorist, even if the action had occurred before the Act was passed. This included a diner that served coffee, and people who brought water and supplies.
Canadian politician Mark Strahl claimed on Feb. 20 that a single mother who works a minimum wage job was deprived of her bank account after she “legally” donated $50 to the Freedom Convoy.
Mr. Strahl, a Conservative, criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for invoking the Emergencies Act to deal with the impact of ongoing protests by truckers and their supporters against COVID-19 mandates and restrictions on Twitter.
In a statement on Feb. 21, RCMP said the account-freezing powers under Emergency Economic Measures Order (Emergencies Act) applied to “individuals who were influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area impacted by the protest.”