The Pentagon has approved the deployment of 700 National Guard troops to Washington D.C. ahead of planned trucker protests. Multiple trucker convoys plan on arriving in D.C. just in time for Biden’s State of the Union address, which is scheduled for March 1.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved the request Tuesday from the District of Columbia government and the U.S. Capitol Police, the Pentagon said in a statement Tuesday. Officials said the troops would be used to assist with traffic control during the upcoming demonstrations. 50 armored vehicles will also be deployed alongside the 700 troops.
The deployment will consist of roughly 400 members of the D.C. National Guard and 300 members from outside of the district. The troops will not carry weapons “or take part in law enforcement or domestic-surveillance activities,” according to the National Guard Bureau.
“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. “Our MPD and USCP partners have asked for our help in ensuring people can demonstrate peacefully and safely, and we stand ready to assist.”
In addition to the increased military presence, the U.S. Capitol Police are reinstalling an 8-foot-tall, barbed-wire-topped fence around the perimeter of the Capitol building. The fence was previously installed after the January 6 election protests and was not dismantled until July.
The Great American Patriot Project, a group of US trucker convoys inspired by the peaceful demonstrations in Canada, have been forming protests against COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates in several U.S. cities. The group has encouraged truck drivers to join three convoys to Washington D.C. next month. Convoys are set to embark from California and Scranton, PA, among other cities.