(WASHINGTON) — The nation’s capital is ramping up security ahead of President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Up to 700 National Guard troops will “be available to help local law enforcement,” according to the National Guard, and an inner-perimeter fence once again surrounds the Capitol. The Guard announced that these enhanced security measures will be in place through March 7.
The security precautions were put in place to prepare for protests, including truckers against COVID mandates.
On Wednesday, a group of right-wing truckers called the “People’s Convoy,” began a cross-country haul from California to D.C. to protest COVID-19 mandates and restrictions.
It comes in the wake of Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” truckers who forcibly occupied the Ambassador Bridge, connecting Detroit, Michigan with Ontario, Canada, while protesting COVID-19 vaccination mandates in Canada.
Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger announced the fence surrounding the Capitol was erected “out of an abundance of caution in light of the upcoming State of the Union Address, and the possibility of demonstrations in the next couple of weeks,” according to a statement released on Sunday.
The United States Capitol Police have also been working in tandem with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies including D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department, the United States Park Police, the United States Secret Service and the National Guard on a “security plan to prevent any disruption to the important work of Congress,” Manger said.
The fencing, which became politicized following the Jan. 6 riot, was not welcome news to some Republicans.
On Sunday, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the use of resources for extra security should instead be sent to the border.
“Those National Guard and that fencing should be in America but they should be along our borders not around the people’s house,” McCarthy said on Fox. “The people’s house should be open to the people.”
On the other side of the aisle, Washington, D.C. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton — who last year introduced a bill to block permanent fencing at the Capitol complex — released a statement saying while she understands “security concerns related to the trucker convoy and the State of the Union address that led to the fencing being temporarily reinstalled” she will “ensure that the fencing comes down as soon as possible to restore freedom of movement for District of Columbia residents and the general public.”
The request for National Guard troops to D.C. was approved by many surrounding states including Vermont, New Jersey and West Virginia but was not approved by Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted “there will be no @FLGuard sent to D.C. for Biden’s State of the Union.”
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