The Pentagon has approved the deployment of hundreds of unarmed National Guard troops to the nation's capital, ahead of a truck convoy protest against pandemic restrictions planned for the next week.
The approval by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin comes after the District of Columbia government and the US Capitol Police have requested the National Guard assistance.
Maj. Gen. Sherrie L. McCandless, D.C. National Guard commanding general, 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."
The approval will allow about 400 D.C. National Guard members to "provide support at designated traffic posts, provide command and control, and cover sustainment requirements."
The protest, which is modeled after recent trucker protests in Canada, is expected to coincide with President Joe Biden's first State of the Union address, next Tuesday, March 1.
“Law enforcement agencies across the National Capital Region are aware of plans for a series of truck convoys arriving in Washington, DC around the time of the State of the Union,” US Capitol Police said last week.
Separate truck convoys have been planned through online forums with names like the People’s Convoy and the American Truckers Freedom Fund. They have with different starting points, departure dates and routes.
The recent Canadian truckers' protest shut down the busiest US Canadian border crossing and besieged the streets of the capital, Ottawa for weeks. The multiple blockades were broken up by police last week and more than 190 people were arrested.
It is still unclear if any of the US convoys would want to actively shut down Washington's streets, like what happened in Ottawa, but, according to some organizers, the convoys would briefly roll through the city, then focus on shutting down the Beltway, which encircles the capital.
A statement from the People’s Convoy specifically says the trucks “will NOT be going into DC proper.”
The US convoys want the government to immediately lift heavy-handed pandemic restrictions like mask mandates and vaccine requirements.
The American Truckers Freedom Fund website says the group is protesting “the unscientific, unconstitutional overreach of the federal government.”