U.S. Capitol Police are considering reinstalling temporary fencing around the Capitol in case an anticipated trucker convoy threatens to disrupt President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s delegate to Congress, requested a briefing on the issue Wednesday from U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Chief Thomas Manger.
“Chief Manger is ensuring that USCP is coordinating with law enforcement partners, including the Secret Service and D.C. police, and the National Guard to address the trucker convoy and to ensure next week’s State of the Union address goes smoothly,” Norton said following the briefing. “The information regarding threats changes hourly, and Chief Manger assured me the fencing would only be used if necessary and taken down as soon as the threat had passed.”
Following the attacks on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Norton introduced legislation to prohibit installing permanent fencing on the Capitol grounds, contending that it would send an un-American message.
Drawing on media coverage of defiant Canadian truckers opposing their government’s cross-border COVID-19 vaccination mandates, a group of American truckers have launched their own cross-country effort, the “People’s Convoy,” which left Wednesday from Adelanto, California, bound for Washington.
The plan is to arrive in the D.C. Beltway area on March 5 — five days after the State of the Union. But another convoy of trucks originating in Scranton, Pennsylvania, plans to arrive in Washington earlier.
U.S. truckers are exempt from vaccine requirements while driving domestically. However, convoy organizers say they are demonstrating in support of doctors, nurses and law enforcement personnel who risk getting fired if they do not adhere to COVID vaccine and testing requirements.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, approved on Tuesday a request from the Capitol Police and the government of the District of Columbia for 700 National Guardsmen and 50 vehicles for deployment in and around the city. “They are designed for traffic support in anticipation of potential challenges to traffic here in the D.C. area surrounding some potential protest activity,” said Defense Department spokesman John Kirby at a press conference on Wednesday.
Kirby was asked about reports of concerns by the district government and Capitol Police that they lack enough towing capacity to remove trucks that impede traffic, and whether the Defense Department can supply its own towing assets.
“There’s been no requests of the department for tow-truck capability,” Kirby confirmed. “I honestly don’t know how many tow trucks we own, but I don’t think it’s very many.”
Asked to weigh in on convoy concerns, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was confident law enforcement would be prepared.
“They have a good handle on what the expectation is,” Pelosi said on Wednesday. “Some of [the demonstrators] will not even come until after the State of the Union, but I feel confident.”
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