Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday approved the extension of the mobilization of the National Guard in the nation’s capital amid a trucker convoy circling the district, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement.
“Secretary Austin has approved requests from the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) and the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DCHSEMA) to extend previously approved National Guard support in the District, including around the U.S. Capitol area, providing support at traffic control points for two additional days, through Wednesday, March 9,” Kirby said in a statement on Monday.
Austin on February 22 approved a request from USCP and DCHSEMA for the National Guard to provide support for them in advance of a trucker convoy that was expected to arrive to D.C. the first week of March and potentially coincide during the State of the Union address on March 1.
Austin approved up to 700 National Guard forces, from D.C., West Virginia, New Jersey, and Vermont, to assist through March 7. The estimated cost of that support was $6.5 million, according to two sources.
However, the trucker convoy, dubbed the “People’s Convoy,” did not arrive to the D.C. region until Saturday, March 5. Participants in the convoy, consisting of more than 1,000 trucks and other vehicles, held a rally in Hagerstown, Maryland on Saturday, and on Sunday reportedly made several loops around D.C. The group apparently made another loop around D.C. on Monday. It is not clear how long they will stay.
National Guard spokesman Maj. Aaron Thacker said in a statement to Breitbart News on Monday:
National Guard has approximately 700 Soldiers and Airmen on duty supporting the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. Capitol Police requests for assistance with traffic control in the area of the U.S. Capitol and the National Mall. Yesterday, the Department of Defense approved requests from the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency to extend the National Guard’s mission by two days to the end of the day Wednesday, March 9. For the final two days, approximately 500 National Guard members will be on duty
Convoy participants are protesting vaccine mandates and other coronavirus pandemic restrictions. The convoy was inspired by weeks-long trucker protests in Canada.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) announced on Twitter that he had rejected a request by the D.C. National Guard, sent to all states, for support, as reported by Breitbart News.
In an interview with Breitbart News last week, DeSantis’s Press Secretary Christina Pushaw said, “We don’t think that’s the right use of our National Guard troops.”
“We remember the last deployment to D.C. around this time [was] when they were forced to sleep in parking lots, they didn’t have food, they were just dealing with very poor conditions, to just kind of have this fortress around the Capitol,” she added.