'Unreal' and 'outrageous': Democrats and Republicans demand a swift investigation into how soldiers ended up sleeping in a parking lot

·4 min read
National Guard in Capitol
National Guard troops rest in the US Capitol while on a break. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
  • Troops guarding the Capitol were forced to vacate the facility Thursday, Politico reported.

  • National Guardsmen had to take breaks in cramped parking garages instead, the report said.

  • They were allowed back into the Capitol on Thursday after lawmakers demanded an investigation.

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Video: What it takes to secure an inauguration

Thousands of National Guardsmen in Washington, DC, who are working 12-hour shifts to protect the Capitol were told to vacate congressional grounds and take their breaks in a nearby parking garage, Politico reported.

One Guardsman told Politico that the garage had only one outlet, two bathroom stalls, and no internet reception for the 5,000 troops now occupying the space.

"Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service," the Guardsman said. "Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed."

Read more: 12 National Guard troops were pulled off security for Biden's inauguration over concerns including suspected ties to far-right groups

Another Guardsman confirmed that all troops had been ordered to leave the Capitol premises and set up mobile command centers in hotels nearby or outside. The guardsmen who spoke to the outlet said nobody told them why they needed to relocate.

In the weeks since the January 6 Capitol riots, 25,000 National Guard troops have been occupying DC to support ongoing security activities and in anticipation of President Joe Biden's January 20 inauguration.

The heightened security presence made headlines when pictures of the troops sleeping on the floor of the US Capitol went viral. Troops were eventually given cots.

Read more: There will be more US troops in DC for Biden's inauguration than in Iraq and Afghanistan combined, a stark reminder of the danger of homegrown extremism

Guard spokesperson Major Matt Murphy told Politico that Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest areas on Thursday now that Congress is in session and there is an increase in foot traffic throughout the Capitol.

Troops on the premises are still working 12-hour shifts to protect the Capitol, and one Guardsman confirmed to the outlet that Guard leadership was not responsible for the decision to relocate.

"There really may be an important reason for us to vacate and it just hasn't been well communicated yet," one Guardsman told reporters.

The troops are concerned that the cramped quarters of the new parking garage location combined with the limited bathroom access may lead to rising COVID-19 cases among soldiers, according to Politico.

schumer trump covid blue states
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Following the report, lawmakers from both parties swiftly called for an investigation into the matter. Later into the night, the Guardsmembers were allowed back on congressional grounds.

"If this is true, it's outrageous," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Twitter. "I will get to the bottom of this."

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said the troops were welcome in her office.

"There is plenty of space in the US Capitol for the men and women keeping us safe," Sinema tweeted. "This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the U.S. Capitol safe and secure. We need it fixed and we need answers on how it happened."

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a combat veteran, also donated her office to house the troops.

"Unreal. I can't believe that the same brave service members we've been asking to protect our Capitol and our Constitution these last two weeks would be unceremoniously ordered to vacate the building," Duckworth tweeted. "I am demanding answers ASAP."

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, also a combat veteran, also described the situation as "unacceptable."

"All week these troops have been protecting the Capitol," he said. "I'll be making my office available for any guardsmen who need it and encouraging others to do the same."

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a US Army veteran, said on Twitter that "we'll get to the bottom of this and get it fixed."

Read the full story at Politico

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