700 Guardsmen Set to Help If Truckers Block DC Roads
One convoy organizer said they plan to shut down the Capital Beltway.
This story has been updated.
Hundreds of National Guard troops will help local agencies if trucker convoys disrupt traffic in the Washington, D.C., region in the coming days.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved requests from the U.S. Capitol Police and the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency for National Guard personnel to provide support in and around the District.
Four hundred District of Columbia National Guard troops and 50 vehicles will support the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department at designated traffic posts, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Wednesday.
Three hundred National Guard troops from neighboring states will help the Capitol Police with “traffic control operations at designated perimeter posts,” Kirby said.
The 700 National Guardsmen will assist these agencies “as soon as operationally and logistically feasible through March 7, 2022.”
Several groups are planning to send truckers to D.C. to protest pandemic restrictions, similar to the recent convoys in Canada, DCist reported. Before being removed Saturday, truckers in Ottawa had blocked an area of the city for weeks. Another trucker protest in Ontario blocked the Ambassador Bridge, a major international link between Canada and Detroit, Michigan.
One trucker who is organizing a convoy from Pennsylvania this week said trucks plan to block traffic on the Capital Beltway, a major highway that circles the nation’s capital.
"We're not coming there just to starve them," Bob Bolus said to WUSA9 about the convoy. "We're going to choke you like a boa constrictor and you'll have nothing."
On Wednesday, Bolus started his trip to D.C., but so far the convoy consists only of his truck and a few cars, according to tweets by a Reuters producer.
Other truck convoys are planning to arrive in D.C. around President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, DCist reported.
The Guardsmen will be on Title 32 duty status, or federal pay status, during this deployment. They will not have firearms and will not conduct surveillance on U.S. or foreign persons, Kirby said. While they will conduct traffic control, they will not arrest people or perform other law enforcement activities.
“The Metropolitan Police Department and the USCP are responsible for conducting searches, seizures, and arrests within their respective jurisdictions,” Kirby said. “National Guard personnel will adhere to the DC National Guard rules for the use of force.”
In 2021, the Pentagon approved requests for National Guard troops to protect the Capitol Building leading up to and then after the presidential inauguration following the Jan. 6 riot. More than 25,000 troops were sent to D.C. at a cost of $520.9 million, which Congress eventually reimbursed.
The deployment of National Guard members has increased in the past few years as local governments continue to ask for assistance responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and civil unrest. June 2020 saw the highest number of Guardsmen deployed at any time since World War II, officials told reporters last year.