‘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.