After two weeks of sleepless nights protecting Washington DC from an alleged inauguration threat that never materialized, thousands of National Guardsmen were booted from Congressional grounds on Thursday, where they were forced to sleep on marble floors, and have instead been forced to take their rest breaks in nearby parking garages, according to Politico.
The unexplained move comes after ‘dozens’ of lawmakers posed for photo ops with the troops.
“Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” said one Guardsman, who said their unit was abruptly kicked out of the Dirksen Senate Office building into a nearby parking garage with no internet reception, one electrical outlet, and a two-stall bathroom for 5,000 troops.
Here’s a video from the parking garage where 5,000 members of the National Guard who were guarding the Capitol are being forced to stay. pic.twitter.com/bREUxt1tRi
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) January 22, 2021
All National Guard troops were told to vacate the Capitol and nearby congressional buildings on Thursday, and to set up mobile command centers outside or in nearby hotels, another Guardsman confirmed. They were told to take their rest breaks during their 12-hour shifts outside and in parking garages, the person said.
Prominent lawmakers from both parties took to Twitter to decry the decision and call for answers after POLITICO first reported the news Thursday night. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, tweeted: “If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this.” –Politico
This is so wrong on every level. Would they allow their sons and daughters to sleep in a cold parking lot? There is no reason for them to be there. @SenateGOP @SenateDems
— Code of Vets ™ (@codeofvets) January 22, 2021
In response to the report, several lawmakers have expressed (or feigned) outrage, with several offering the use of their offices to Guardsmen.
This is absolutely unacceptable and despicable treatment of our brave and dedicated National Guard who answered the call to serve.
We need to demand answers now and this needs to be fixed immediately. https://t.co/FyNUpFYJyX
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) January 22, 2021
If the guardsmen need space, we all have empty office space right now. I’ll offer mine up in a heartbeat. I’m talking to colleagues now to identify more space.
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) January 22, 2021
Yeah this is not okay.
My office is free this week to any service members who’d like to use it for a break or take nap on the couch. We’ll stock up on snacks for you all too.
(We’re in the middle of moving offices and it’s a bit messy so don’t judge, but make yourself at home!) https://t.co/JyEvC4kg6o
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 22, 2021
According to some Guardsmen who spoke with Politico, there was no clear reason given for the eviction – though one said it that it may have been over a complaint that some troops were not wearing masks, though said that wasn’t the case.
“We have strict guidance that masks are to be worn at all times unless soldiers are eating and drinking.”
Another Guardsman speculated that “There really may be an important reason for us to vacate and it just hasn’t been well communicated yet.“
The troops are particularly concerned about being packed in tight quarters with limited bathroom access during a pandemic. At least 100 Guardsmen have tested positive for Covid, according to two Guardsmen. Some are quarantining in hotels.
A spokesperson previously declined to provide a specific number for troops who have tested positive for Covid. –Politico
According to Guard spokesman Matt Murphy, “As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area,” adding “They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities. We remain an agile and flexible force to provide for the safety and security of the Capitol and its surrounding areas.”