Following swift condemnation from lawmakers, the troops were moved back into the Capitol building late Thursday night.
After spending days camping at Capitol Hill to ensure the heart of America's democracy is safe for President Joe Biden's inauguration, citizen members of the National Guard found themselves sleeping in an unheated garage for hours Thursday. According to CBS News, the troops were asked to leave the Capitol building and relocate to a nearby parking garage to rest during their shifts. The move prompted a swift call to reverse the decision from outraged lawmakers including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called it "outrageous." The soldiers were reportedly moved back into the building late Thursday night.
Our troops deserve the utmost honor & respect for securing the Capitol & defending democracy this week.— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) January 22, 2021
This is unconscionable & unsafe. Whoever’s decision this was to house our National Guardsmen & women in underground parking lots must be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/mBwpoog6YC
Capt. Edwin Nieves Jr., the spokesman for the Washington, D.C., branch of the National Guard, told The New York Times that the troops had been temporarily moved out of the Capitol on Thursday afternoon at the request of the Capitol Police due to increased foot traffic when Congress came back into session. "As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area," National Guard Bureau spokesman Major Matt Murphy said in a statement. "They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities."
BREAKING: Thousands of Guardsmen were forced to vacate congressional grounds on Thursday and are now taking their rest breaks outside and in nearby parking garages. https://t.co/wvoTMxq2V7 W/ @NatashaBertrand @AndrewDesiderio— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) January 22, 2021
While about 3,500 National Guardsmen were said to have been moved out of the Capitol, not all were in the parking garage at the same time. Members were reportedly cycled into the garage to warm up and take a break during their guard duty shifts and the guardsmen returned to a hotel at the end of their shifts. Two Guard soldiers — who spoke on the condition of anonymity — said that they had been relocated without explanation and that they were without electrical power, heat, or adequate restroom facilities at the garage. One of them estimated that there were 1000 troops sharing one portable restroom outside the garage. "Zero guidance on mission, length of mission, nothing," they said.
Photos of the parking garage where they are now resting, with no WiFi, just one outlet and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops: pic.twitter.com/TLFGkZX2vu— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) January 22, 2021
The soldiers added that their fellow troops were breathing in exhaust fumes as the garage was still in use for parking. While Captain Nieves said that the garage had heat and restrooms, some guardsmen have expressed displeasure at being moved to a parking facility where they also had limited cell phone and internet service and power outlets. Reports of the soldiers being relocated prompted protests from lawmakers from both parties, including House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York. Some lawmakers even offered to house the Guard troops in their offices.
I meant ASAP when I said it. Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight. I’ll keep checking to make sure they are.— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) January 22, 2021
"This is unacceptable. I just spoke to the Commanding Officer of all the National Guard troops at the Capitol, a great Marylander, Brigadier General Birckhead, to assure her that this outrage was being remedied immediately. We will get to the bottom of this," tweeted Senator Chris Van Hollen. "This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the U.S. Capitol safe and secure," said Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D - Arizona). "We need it fixed and we need answers on how it happened."
WATCH: National Guard troops leave the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage after U.S. Capitol Police temporarily relocated their rest area. Troops have since returned to the Capitol. - @MoshehNBC pic.twitter.com/ZpL1RxbY3a— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 22, 2021
Late Thursday night, the D.C. Guard issued a statement assuring that the soldiers had been moved back to the Capitol from the parking garage. "Brig. Gen. Janeen Birckhead, Inauguration Task Force Commander confirms that troops are out of the garage and back into the Capitol building as authorized by the USCP (U.S. Capitol Police) Watch Commander and the troops will take their breaks near Emancipation Hall going forward," it said. One of the lawmakers who'd expressed outrage, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D - Illinois), tweeted, "Update: Troops are now all out of the garage. Now I can go to bed."
National Guard troops have been allowed back into the Capitol to rest after being asked to move, a request that sent some to a parking garage, officials say. https://t.co/bjtK7JCffs— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 22, 2021