A unique protest took place in Ottawa, Canada, from January 29 to February 21, 2022. Crowds and vehicles known as the Freedom Convoy flooded the capital city to oppose COVID vaccination requirements for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada border. For nearly a week, these protestors blocked busy Ottawa streets and the Ambassador Bridge, a critical trade route linking Windsor, Ohio, with Detroit, Michigan. This further disrupted a supply chain still recovering from the effects of the pandemic.
Now, the United States is preparing for its version of these protests. A truckers’ group calling itself the People’s Convoy, comprising 25 vehicle fleets and scores of individuals, has planned to converge on Washington D.C. The city expects this to occur on or around March 1 to coincide with the State of the Union Address.
To mitigate the situation, the District of Columbia local government and the U.S. Capitol Police have requested 700 National Guard troops to the area. This request has been approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, with the soldiers being in place for “command and control.” Fifty large tactical vehicles are part of this deployment, but the troops will not carry weapons or engage in law enforcement. They will move into the D.C. area on Saturday, February 26, and remain there until Monday, March 7.
The People’s Convoy has raised almost half a million dollars through crowdfunding and plans to cross the United States from D.C. to Canada. Organizer Brian Brase has told reporters that once the convoy stops, it will not move until its demands are met. These include the ending of mask and vaccine mandates. A group from President Biden’s hometown of Scranton, PA, plans to block off the Beltway, a primary thoroughfare surrounding Washington D.C.
Per BBC, the organization’s spokesperson, Bob Bolus, told reporters the effect would be like “a giant boa constrictor that squeezes you, chokes you, and swallows you alive. That is what we are going to do to D.C.”
Erica Knight, a spokesperson for the American Trucker Freedom Fund, does not feel the need for a National Guard presence. She feels that unlike the blockades created by Canadian protestors, the People’s Convoy does not want to disrupt daily life. Their goal is “to try and implement policy change” by meeting with members of Congress and “showing that trucker voices matter.”
The National Guard presence is primarily for traffic control to keep busy D.C. streets and the Beltway clear of obstructions. With the events of January 6, 2021, still fresh in people’s minds, it is a relief that this deployment is unarmed and in place to prevent a protest from turning into panic.