FEBRUARY 22, 2022
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.
“We’re going to travel the Beltway at a safe speed,” Bolus said. “We’re not looking for a battle. Don’t create one.”
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.
“We’re not going to camp there. Let me put it that way,” Bolus replied. “We’re not camping on the Beltway. We’re gonna have our voices heard and let them understand this is only the tip of the iceberg.”
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.
“Have you been in touch at all with the truck convoy coming from California to exchange notes and ideas?” 7News reporter Kevin Lewis asked Bolus.
“We have had dialogue,” he responded. “We’ve had conference calls and we’re all on the same page. We’re all for one thing: freedom and rights. It’s America.”
During an interview on Monday, and then again on Tuesday, Bolus stopped short of saying how many trucks he expects to be part of his convoy. He did say if there are not many, he will scrap it at the last minute.
DC Officials Preparing For More Convoys Coming
In the District, U.S. Capitol Police and DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency have reportedly requested National Guard support ahead of potential trucker protests in and around the nation’s capital.
The Department of Defense has not yet approved that request.
“The Department is analyzing a request for assistance from the US Capitol Police and the DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency. Those agencies have asked for National Guard personnel to provide support at traffic control points in and around the District to help the USCP and DC government address potential challenges stemming from possible disruptions at key traffic arteries,” said a statement from Pentagon press secretary Jon Kirby. “No decisions have been made yet to approve these requests.”
Meanwhile, Capitol Police are also preparing for the president’s State of The Union address and a joint session of Congress, set for March 1.
Roadblocks and barricades are already being set up around the Capitol, using garbage trucks and dump trucks to block certain intersections.
In a statement issued late last week, USCP said it was planning for extra security ahead of the joint session of Congress, and acknowledged that it could coincide with potential trucker protests in the District:
Law enforcement agencies across the National Capital Region are aware of plans for a series of truck convoys arriving in Washington, DC around the time of the State of the Union. As with any demonstration, the USCP will facilitate lawful First Amendment activity. The USCP is closely coordinating with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Park Police, the United States Secret Service and other allied agencies to include the DC National Guard.
DC Police Chief Robert Contee also spoke last week about the potential for a trucker protest in the District.
“I mean, you think about the impact of this, on I-95 a couple of weeks ago, a snowstorm with two or three tractor-trailers made for a terrible situation there,” Contee said, referring to January’s weather-related shutdown of I-95 in Virginia. “So we’re going to plan as best we can, work with our partners, both local and federal, to do whatever we can to mitigate it.”
7News is tracking plans being made by different groups, including ‘The People’s Convoy’ that is set to depart California on Wednesday in protest of COVID-related restrictions.
In a February 20 press release, the truckers behind that cross-country trip said “The People’s Convoy will abide by agreements with local authorities, and terminate in the vicinity of the DC area, but will NOT be going into DC proper”
“You may be wondering why we’re doing this. Okay, for me personally, it’s about our freedoms as Americans. I have two young sons, it’s about what their future is going to look like,” said Mike Landis with The People’s Convoy, in a video posted on the group’s website.
That website also includes a map with the route the truckers plan to take from California. It says they expect to arrive “in the DC Beltway area” on March 5.
Another group called the ‘American Truckers Freedom Convoy’ says their convoys are “peaceful, non-violent demonstrations by those who wish to express their constitutional rights”.
That group’s website lists a series of routes happening the first week of March, with Washington, D.C. listed as the final destination. However, their plans don’t specify what exactly the truckers plan to do upon arriving in the DMV area, or whether they will actually be going into the District.
“We’ll be informing the public as we get closer to that time, with recommendations,” Chief Contee said last week. “I think we have to be realistic about what we could potentially see. Will there be disruptions to traffic, that kind of thing. And I think we need to be candid with the public about what some of the expectations are based upon what we’ve seen in Ottawa, what we might see here in the District.”
Virginia State Police issued this statement to 7News: “The Virginia State Police has been and continues to monitor the situation and to communicate with our National Capital Region local, state and federal partners. This is standard practice any time the potential exists for a significant protest that could disrupt the safe and efficient flow of traffic on Virginia highways.”
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton says she will meet with USCP Chief Tom Manger to discuss security preparations for the truck convoys Wednesday.
7News checked back in with MPD on Tuesday, along with the mayor’s office and DC’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency to ask about any updated response plans for potential plans.
In a statement, the DC’s Mayor office said: The District of Columbia and its public safety agencies are aware of and prepared for potential demonstrations that may take place in the National Capital Region in the weeks ahead. Mayor Bowser is being briefed by public safety officials as we continue to monitor the situation closely, and our agencies remain in regular contact with their local, regional, and federal partners. Layered mitigation measures are being put in place, including some that will be visible to the public and others that are not. We appreciate the approval of our DC National Guard traffic support request as we pull together the resources to support our public safety personnel.
Residents should remain vigilant and report suspicious activity by calling 202-727-9099, texting 50411, or visiting iwatchdc.org. Always report all threats and emergencies to 911 immediately. Residents, businesses, and visitors can sign up for real-time text updates at alert.dc.gov and are encouraged to follow @AlertDC, @MayorBowser, @DCPoliceDept, and @DC_HSEMA on social media.