D.C. braces for trucker convoys expected this weekend, as Pentagon deploys National Guard
The Secretary of Defense aproved 400 National Guard troops and 50 vehicles to support the District's Metropolitan Police Department and another 300 troops to assist the Capitol Police.
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Inspired by the Canadian "Freedom Convoy" that protested Prime Minster Justin Trudeau's COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions, several trucker convoys are heading across the U.S. to Washington, D.C., as local officials prepare for their arrival.
One of the largest convoys, "The People's Convoy," started in Adelanto, Calif., on Feb. 23, and is planning on arriving in the D.C. area on Saturday.
On Wednesday, the convoy was estimated to have grown to about 1,100 vehicles, according to WePatriot, which provides regular updates on the convoy through contacts with many of the organizers.
As of Tuesday, The People's Convoy website reported over $1.5 million donated to the caravan. Non-financial donations are also being accepted.
In Fredericksburg, Va., a restaurant owner is collecting food donations for the convoy.
"We've been getting all kinds of items," Gourmeltz restaurant owner Matt Strickland told WUSA 9, a local CBS affiliate. "Anything from protein bars to beef jerky to all kinds of nonperishable food items. It's just volunteers from the community that have stepped up to collect these donations and take them to the truckers."
On Monday, WePatriot reported that a local county sheriff's department in Missouri was providing the convoy with a police escort, "with the lead sheriff's car sporting an American flag out of the passenger window."
On Tuesday a mile-long convoy was leaving Illinois and Wisconsin to join The People's Convoy, according to the site.
Another convoy, called "American Freedom Convoy," leaves from Tennessee following a rally on Thursday to head to the area of the nation's capital. The "Convoy To Save America" will join with the American Freedom Convoy after leaving Tennessee on Friday to arrive on the Virginia side of the D.C. Beltway on Saturday.
From Washington State, the "American Truckers Freedom Convoy" began its journey to D.C. on Tuesday, with the plan to reach the nation's capital by Sunday, reported WJLA, a local ABC affiliate.
There was an accident in Oklahoma between two semi-trucks and two pickup trucks from the convoy on Sunday evening, causing state troopers to close down the Will Rogers Turnpike for half an hour, reported KTUL, a local ABC affiliate.
There are several other convoys that are planning on joining the larger ones enroute to D.C.
A trucker leading a convoy from Scranton, Pa., which left last Wednesday, initially told Fox 5 DC they would "choke" the nation's capital like a boa constrictor.
"We will be along the Beltway where the Beltway will be shut down," Bob Bolus said on Feb. 20.
When asked about emergency responders and commuters to the city, Bolus replied, "There will be a lane open for emergency vehicles, they'll be able to get in and out and all that," he said. "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."
However, according to a Reuters reporter who followed the convoy on its first day, there were only eight participating vehicles.
"We're not putting a chokehold on D.C. today," Bolus told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. "Not to say that it wouldn't happen in the very near future. It's just going to be an idea of what's to come."
Bolus' idea to shut down traffic is in stark contrast to that of the organizer for The People's Convoy, who told 7News that doing so would be illegal.
"No, that would be against the law," Maureen Steele said. "And like we've announced from the beginning, we don't have any intention of being unlawful."
The convoys are not planning on going into the city itself, but the D.C. mayor and U.S. Capitol Police both received approval from the Defense Department for their requests for National Guard troops, according to WJLA.
"The Secretary of Defense has approved the provision of 400 District of Columbia National Guard (DCNG) personnel and 50 vehicles to support the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia at designated traffic posts," the Pentagon said in a statement last Wednesday.
"This support was requested by the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency for DoD. DCNG personnel will be prepared to assist Metropolitan Police officers at traffic posts as soon as operationally and logistically feasible through March 7, 2022.
"The Secretary of Defense also approved the provision of up to 300 National Guard personnel from neighboring states to support the United States Capitol Police (USCP) officers with traffic control operations at designated perimeter posts."
The governors of both Maryland and Virginia spoke last Wednesday about preparing for the convoys and have said they are monitoring the situation.
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