‘Freedom Convoy’ Coming to DC

Right wing protestors are expected to attempt to create (more) gridlock in the capitol later today.

WaPo (“As ‘Freedom Convoy’ spinoffs pop up on social media, D.C. region braces“):

Local and federal agencies are preparing for possible traffic disruptions in the D.C. region related to plans inspired by the self-styled “Freedom Convoy” that occupied downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks protesting vaccine mandates.

Multiple convoy spinoffs have popped up on social media apps such as Facebook and Telegram, encouraging Americans to mobilize and head to the nation’s capital to protest vaccine mandates. There are many evolving plans, including one man saying he is leading a protest to the Beltway as soon as Wednesday; a permit filed to rally near the Washington Monument on March 1; and other organizers claiming to kick off a trip from California on Wednesday before arriving to their final destination in the D.C. area on March 5.

But extremist researchers say it is still unclear when or if these protests will happen or whether it is social media posturing.

With competing convoy organizers, routes and dates, much is unknown about the details. If plans do materialize, it’s not clear where D.C.-area demonstrations would take place, how many people would be coming, what exactly they would do or how long they would stay.

Cynthia Miller-Idriss, who runs the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University, said security officials have to be careful to “thread that needle” between playing down alarmist messaging and preparing for all possibilities.

Security and law enforcement officials were caught flat-footed on Jan. 6, 2021, failing to take online plotting and threats seriously ahead of the violent mob storming the Capitol. In that aftermath, they have opted to overprepare for other right-wing threats — such as the “Justice for J6” rally, a protest in September in support of those charged in the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — which led to the mobilization of multiple law enforcement agencies and the reinstallation of the U.S. Capitol temporary perimeter fencing for what turned out to be a small gathering.

This is a classic Catch-22 scenario: under-prepare, as happened with January 6, and chaos ensues; over-prepare, as will almost always be the case, and get accused of over-reaction and jackboot tactics. It certainly looks like they’re willing to take the latter risk:

Hundreds of D.C. National Guard personnel and 50 large tactical units are authorized to assist with traffic control during First Amendment demonstrations expected in the city in the coming days, according to a news release late Tuesday night. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved a Feb. 16 request from the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency that allows for the help of about 400 D.C. National Guard personnel, and 50 large tactical units stationed at traffic posts on a 24-hour basis, starting at 1 p.m. Saturday — or as soon as possible — and lasting through March 7.

Austin also approved a Feb. 20 request from Capitol Police that allows up to 300 National Guard personnel from outside the District to assist at U.S. Capitol entry points and traffic posts starting no later than 7 a.m. Saturday.

In a Feb. 18 statement acknowledging plans for “truck convoys” to arrive in the District around the March 1 State of the Union address, the U.S. Capitol Police said the agency and the Secret Service are in “ongoing discussions,” which include the option of reinstalling the temporary inner-perimeter fence.

D.C. police also are preparing for possible demonstrations by deploying its civil disturbance units from Feb. 23 to March 1, spokesman Dustin Sternbeck said on Friday, while noting that the department’s plans may change as the situation develops.

While the size of the event is not yet known, it certainly seems to be headed this way. ABC 7:

Area law enforcement is preparing for three trucker convoys headed to the DC region — the earliest one expected Wednesday. 7News has team coverage on what to expect.

A group from Scranton, Pa is expected to come into town Wednesday afternoon. Their goal: create gridlock on an already bumper-to-bumper Beltway.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, Bob Bolus said his plan to lead a truck convoy from Scranton, Pa. to the DC Beltway was still on for Wednesday. The exact arrival time, however, is still to be determined.

The group plans on leaving Scranton around 8 a.m. — making stops in Harrisburg and Baltimore before heading here.

Bolus, who is a vocal Trump supporter, explained that his convoy will attempt to cause gridlock on I-495.

“Yesterday you said the protest could spill into Thursday. At this point, do you anticipate it spilling into Friday and the weekend or more a 24-hour protest?” 7News reporter Kevin Lewis asked Bolus.

Bolus told 7News that a captain within the Metropolitan Police Department recently contacted him to ask about his protest plans. Yet Bolus, who owns a tow truck company, said he is keeping his convoy out of the District as he believes Maryland and Virginia follow due process more than the nation’s capital.

This sounds very much like an amateur operation. But gridlock is the natural state of the Capitol Beltway; it really wouldn’t take many parked trucks to gum up the works.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Given the number of truckers that either drive for a company, lease their rig from a company, are otherwise contracted to deliver a service in a time frame, playing rebel is close to economic suicide. Allegedly, this convoy started in CA, the fuel cost for even a quarter of the distance would be a huge number.

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  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I hope DC takes this seriously and reacts in the strongest possible way that is legal.
    Contrary to the American right-wing extremist entertainment networks, the convoy did not have wide support in Canada – quite the opposite. And it was mostly an astroturf effort paid for largely by Americans who also donated to January 6th, Kyle Rittenhouse, Proud Boys, and White Lives Matter.

    11
  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    It should also be noted that if you have a commercial insurance policy on a vehicle, using it for non-commercial purposes (like political activism) will usually void the insurance.

    9
  4. Kathy says:

    I’m wondering how well spike strips work on truck tires.

    4
  5. Scott says:

    I wonder how many of these “protesters” support these laws.

    Experts call ‘anti-protest’ bills a backlash to 2020’s racial reckoning

    Republican have introduced at least 80 bills across the country to limit and penalize protests. Experts say it’s a sharp backlash to last summer’s protests.

    A Republican-backed bill in Oklahoma grants immunity to drivers who hit protesters fleeing a demonstration. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has condemned the bill, and Joshua Harris-Till, president of Young Democrats of America, called it “the worst anti-protest bill in the nation,” adding that it would affect marginalized communities the most.

    Under a newly proposed bill in Minnesota, those convicted of a crime related to protesting could be barred from aid like student loans, housing assistance, unemployment benefits and more. And Indiana Republicans have introduced a law to make anyone convicted of rioting ineligible for state jobs and certain state and local benefits.

    Not that they apply in DC.

    2
  6. KM says:

    Honestly this sounds like a homeland security nightmare waiting to happen. You wanna let a ton of unidentified and unvetted “trucks” rolling into the nation’s Capital, let them get pretty damn close to some important infrastructure and people then just let them stay for god knows how long getting supplies smuggled in by friendly forces? Do you realize how tempting a target this is for a terrorist or militia group? It’s not even like a traditional cell where members sort of know each other – ANYBODY can just join up and do their own thing with no checks whatsoever. How do we know Ottawa wasn’t cover for a test run to see how close you can get and what you can get away with before someone pays attention?

    How do you know what they bring in or what they can make on site? Vehicles aren’t gonna be searched and even if a problem was identified, a wall of trucks makes for an effective barrier to removal. Pretty hard to mobilize troops or rescue crews where they’re are needed if Y’All Qaida is blocking the way…

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  7. gVOR08 says:

    The guys in Canada seem to be discovering that breaking the law carrying license plates is as dumb as taking selfies at a riot.

    1
  8. Stormy Dragon says:

    @gVOR08:

    Cue “Sovereign Citizen” style opposition to license plates becoming Republican Party platform

    3
  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Looks like the DC convoy is a massive fail.

  10. Neil Hudelson says:

    The organizer of the PA convoy, Bob Bulus or something like that, claimed in a phone interview that “10 to 20” trucks had shown up. Don’t know why the broad range–they are large trucks and should be easy to count.

    Then a reporter actually showed up to the staging ground.

    “Ten to 20 trucks” actually was one single truck, Bob Bolus’s.

    He then claimed more would join him down the road at a truck stop, and he started his “convoy.”

    Only to get two flat tires a couple of miles later.

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  11. reid says:

    @Neil Hudelson: I assume the rough count was because it’s too cold to remove their shoes.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    I was just going to ask if anyone had shown up for this yet, other than reporters.

  13. Joe says:

    If these guys wanted to muck up Rand Paul’s commute to or from work, I might call that some kind of protest. Blocking the consistently blocked up beltway is a meaningless act of tantrumming in crowd.

    1
  14. just nutha says:

    I’m tired of swatting at flies. Mow them all down in the streets.

    Whew! That was really cathartic; I feel much calmer now. I can see where the urge to attack the Taliban, Iraq, and thousand year (if necessary) occupation (h/t John McCain) came from. I understand these gubmint whackdoodles a lot better now.

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  15. just nutha says:

    @Scott: Why would convoy protesters object to laws limiting the rights of BLM protesters? You know as well as I do that prosecutorial (in)discretion will govern how any laws about protesting will function.

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  16. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Only to get two flat tires a couple of miles later.

    And he didn’t even wait for the spike strips.

    1
  17. dazedandconfused says:
  18. CSK says:

    Bolus just told NBC Washington that the truckers don’t plan to shut down traffic today. Translation: No one showed up for the convoy.

    Bolus adds that traffic blockages will happen “in the future” if the government doesn’t restore “the rights they’re taking from us.”

    3
  19. JohnSF says:

    Bolus indeed.
    I seemed to recall hearing the term in connection with stomach problems with sheep.
    Google time!
    Cambridge Dictionary:

    – a small round lump of a substance, especially partly digested food:
    e.g. “They found a large bolus of clogged material in her stomach.”
    More examples:
    – The gel may form a bolus.
    – After taking a drink the food is brought back up in a bolus.
    – Meat bolus was the most common cause of esophageal obstruction.
    – An attempt to remove the bolus was unsuccessful as it was tightly impacted in the distal esophagus.

    ROFL

    2
  20. JohnSF says:

    @CSK:
    “blockages”
    ROFMAO.

    2
  21. Kathy says:

    There’s something truly bizarre in covidiots engaging in massive protests just when mask mandates are being dropped all over.

    Not to mention blockading DC over state and local mandates.

    It almost makes me think the mask and vaccine mandates are not the point. Hmm.

    3
  22. Stormy Dragon says:

    @JohnSF:

    A bolus applies to anything that eats. When you swallow some food, the “blob” of chewed food and spit that travels down your esophagus to your stomach in one mass is a bolus.

    1
  23. gVOR08 says:

    @Kathy:

    There’s something truly bizarre in covidiots engaging in massive protests just when mask mandates are being dropped all over.

    Misquoting Churchill

    Never in the course of human history have so many been so pissed about so little.

    3
  24. Kathy says:

    @gVOR08:

    Remember when terrorists tried to massacre the people of Bowling Green by making them wear masks?

    2
  25. MarkedMan says:

    Thugs should be dealt with as thugs. Washington DC is used to all kinds of protest marches, which mean people marching down a street or across the bridge, so as to make a point. This isn’t that kind of protest, or really any kind of protest at all. These truckers are ignorant *ssholes that just want to create chaos. Arrest them, confiscate their trucks and sell them off to pay for the enforcement. These are no better than the violent anarchists in Portland. The difference is that no public figure supports the violent anarchists, but these clowns have Fox and the Repubs on their side.

    1
  26. DK says:

    “Freedom Convoy” but they don’t support freedom and “truckers” who aren’t truckers. But okay.

    1