U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved requests for 700 National Guard troops to assist law enforcement with anticipated trucker convoy protests heading to Washington, D.C. later this week ahead of President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union Address, the National Guard Bureau said on Tuesday.
According to ABC News, around 400 D.C. National Guard members and 300 members outside the district will help law enforcement run traffic control. No members will carry firearms “or take part in law enforcement or domestic-surveillance activities,” the Bureau said.
“The people who live, work and visit the District are part of our community, and their safety is our first mission priority,” Major General Sherrie McCandless, commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, said in a statement, as reported by CBS News. “Our MPD and USCP partners have asked for our help in ensuring people can demonstrate peacefully and safely, and we stand ready to assist.”
Austin’s move to deploy National Guard troops in Washington, D.C., comes after U.S. Capitol Police and local government asked the Department of Defense for military support due to reports of trucker convoys heading to the capital.
“Those agencies have asked for National Guard personnel to provide support at traffic control points in and around the district to help … address potential challenges stemming from possible disruptions at key traffic arteries,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The organizer of one truck convoy heading to D.C. said the anti-COVID vaccine mandate protesters plan to “shut down” the Capital Beltway, a 64-mile highway that surrounds the capital city.
“We will be along the Beltway where the Beltway will be shut down,” said Bob Bolus, owner of a truck parts and towing business in Scranton, Pa., who helped organize one of the convoys
“I’ll give you an analogy of that of a giant boa constrictor,” he continued. “That basically squeezes you, chokes you and it swallows you, and that’s what we’re going to do the D.C.”
“There will be a lane open for emergency vehicles, they’ll be able to get in and out and all that,” Bolus added. “We will not compromise anybody’s safety or health, one way or the other. As far as if they can’t get to work, geez that’s too bad.”
The U.S. Capitol Police announced on Friday that security fencing will once again be erected around the United States Capitol grounds in anticipation of the trucker convoy protests.
The trucker convoys are expected to resemble the peaceful “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa, Canada, which was recently brutally shut down after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the never-before-used Emergencies Act.