Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she is confident Capitol security officials are prepared for trucker convoys traveling to the Washington, D.C., region to protest COVID-19 restrictions, noting that most potential disruptions would not overlap with President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1.
“They have a good handle on what the expectation is,” the California Democrat told reporters. “Some of it won’t even come until after the State of the Union.”
“I feel confident,” Pelosi added.
In recent weeks, truck convoys in Canada traveled to Ottawa, the country’s capital, to protest pandemic restrictions, causing gridlock and supply chain issues. Some of the protesters in Ottawa were arrested.
In the U.S., The People’s Convoy and the American Truckers Freedom Fund are both organizing trucker convoys to the D.C. area.
The People’s Convoy has a convoy scheduled to leave California on Wednesday and arrive in the Washington region by March 5. The group advocates an end to the national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, which was initially declared by former President Donald Trump in March 2020 and extended by President Joe Biden, most recently on Friday.
The American Truckers Freedom Fund has planned several convoys, including from Washington state on March 1, from North Dakota on March 3, and from Ohio on March 6, according to the group’s website. A slogan prominently displayed on the site reads “End the Mandates.”
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III approved deploying 700 unarmed National Guard personnel through March 7 to help with traffic control for expected trucker protests, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement. Of that contingent, 400 D.C. National Guard troops and 50 vehicles will support the Metropolitan Police Department at designated traffic posts. Up to 300 National Guard troops from outside the district are approved to support the Capitol Police with traffic control operations at perimeter posts.
The Senate sergeant-at-arms told Senate employees that protests by commercial truck operators could overlap with Biden’s State of the Union speech and last through the middle of March.
“Potential impacts of truck convoys may be expected to coincide with the State of the Union Address to Congress, and extend through mid-March,” the Sergeant-at-Arms said in a statement. “Senate staff in D.C. and state offices should anticipate that these convoys may cause higher than normal traffic volumes and possible transportation disruptions on and around roadways in the Washington, D.C. area, and along various main roadways throughout the country.”
The SAA noted the Capitol Police department is working with law enforcement partners to support “peaceful demonstration activity” and to "manage transportation routes."
"For security reasons, we are not going to talk about what we may or may not be doing at this time," Tim Barber, a Capitol Police spokesperson, said in a statement.
After the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, two layers of fencing were installed around the Capitol complex perimeter and eventually removed. In preparation for the Sept. 18 “Justice for J6” rally, a layer of fencing surrounding the Capitol was erected and quickly taken down.
On whether a fence will be put up this time, Pelosi said “that’s not my call,” noting it is up to security officials. The Capitol Police Board makes that determination. Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Karen Gibson, House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker and Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton are the three voting members of the board. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger is a nonvoting member.