The Pentagon on Monday extended the National Guard’s deployment in Washington, D.C., following the Capitol Police Board’s emergency request in response to a trucker convoy protesting COVID-19 mandates over the weekend.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved two more days of National Guard deployment, through Wednesday, after requests from the U.S. Capitol Police and the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.
The Guard will provide support at traffic control points.
Last month, Austin approved the activation of 700 National Guard members ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address a week ago. The initial deployment of Guardsmen also came amid concerns of potential trucker convoy protests coming to D.C. on the day of the President’s speech.
Plans for some massive convoy of truckers to descend upon D.C. in time for the SOTU, however, fell flat. But there’s been a bit more activity in recent days that has sparked concerns.
Hundreds of trucks, cars and SUVs protesting the government’s response to the pandemic looped around the Capital Beltway twice on Sunday, slowing down traffic outside the Capital. The convoy eventually lost steam as the trucks became interspersed with normal traffic, despite starting out in a formation that was about 30 miles long.
Christopher Rodriguez, the director of the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, told the New York Times that the convoy did not cause any major disruptions to the city’s transportation routes on Sunday, but cautioned that it was a “fluid and unpredictable event.”
D.C. government officials have urged residents to prepare for increased traffic in the region.
Although it’s unclear whether the convoy plans to enter D.C. this week, organizers told the Times that they didn’t want people to drive into the capital yesterday because there were concerns that some participants could create the type of chaos that broke out during last year’s deadly Capitol insurrection.
Additionally, organizers reportedly wanted participants to avoid clashing with law enforcement, following the arrests of dozens of anti-vax protesters in Ottawa, Canada last month.
The convoy encircling the Capital Beltway follows the so-called “Freedom Convoy of 2022″ protests last month in Ottawa by truckers who oppose a COVID-19 requirement that mandates them to be fully vaccinated upon reentry or face a two-week quarantine. The protests forced some major border crossings in the country to shut down, which disrupted supply chains. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act in response to the disruption the trucker protests posed.
The protests in Canada gained the attention of right-wingers in the U.S, with some GOP lawmakers cheering on Canadian truckers’ protests.