Capitol girding for potential ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest at State of the Union

U.S. Capitol Police are preparing for a possible protest by a convoy of truckers arriving in Washington around the date of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address.

In a statement Friday, the Capitol Police said local, state and federal law enforcement agencies as well as the District of Columbia National Guard are “aware of plans for a series of truck convoys” arriving in the city around the time of Biden’s March 1 address and are coordinating security planning.

Capitol Police officials briefed congressional staff on the status of those plans Friday afternoon.

Truck drivers and others protesting vaccine requirements and other public-health measures during the Covid-19 pandemic have snarled the Canadian capital of Ottawa for three weeks. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked emergency powers in an attempt to quell those protests, and police have worked to clear the streets of the protesters.

One of the officials familiar with the briefings said there was real concern Washington could be the sight of a similar protest in the coming weeks. Security officials could easily monitor and prepare for trucker movements from outside the metro area, the official said. But they implied they would have a harder time doing so if people from the Washington area joined.

At least one group purporting to be organizing a convoy is raising money on the web for a cross-country protest beginning in California. 

The Capitol remains closed to the public because of the pandemic. Security barricades erected after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection have come down and both chambers of Congress are in recess until Feb. 28. But authorities will likely be on high alert again when Biden is scheduled to deliver his first State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. 

Trucks and vans are prohibited from entering the area around Capitol complex without the delivery companies and drivers having letters on file with the Capitol Police.

Tickets to attend that speech in the House chamber will be limited to members of Congress, and some staffers and media, and attendees must remain fully masked, officials announced Thursday.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department is “aware of potential First Amendment activities” but no application had been submitted to the department, said spokesperson Alaina Gertz.

“As with all First Amendment demonstrations, MPD will be monitoring, assessing and planning accordingly with our local, state, and federal partners,” Gertz said. “We have increased available resources, including the activation of our Civil Disturbance Units, in preparation for these activities.”

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