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‘Betrayed’: Natl Guard troops tasked with protecting Capitol and politicians reportedly banished to garages

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Just days after thousands of National Guard troops were celebrated for protecting Washington, D.C. for President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the new administration seemed to have effectively “banished” them.

Guardsmen reportedly felt “betrayed” by those they had been protecting in the U.S. Capitol after they were ordered to vacate the building and head outdoors or to nearby parking garages, according to Politico. Late Thursday night, after lawmakers denounced the situation, troops in the parking garages were reportedly allowed back inside the Capitol and the Capitol Police apologized.

Though it was not initially clear why the Guardsmen were forced out of the building and into parking garages, one troop member told Politico that their leadership was “doing their best to provide rest and shelter for troops who are still on 12-hour shifts protecting the Capitol and congressional grounds.”

Guard spokesperson Maj. Matt Murphy told the outlet it was Capitol Police that asked troops to change their resting location, but claimed they were in a heated area, as temperatures in the city were reportedly in the 40’s.

“As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area,” Murphy said. “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.”

Outrage ensued after photos began emerging of members crowded together on the ground in the parking garage, leaning against cement pillars for rest between 12-hour shifts. One group of Guardsmen, who had been resting in the Dirksen Senate Office building, were moved to a nearby parking garage “without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops,” according to Politico.

“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,” one Guardsman told Politico.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott demanded his state’s Guard members be released to come home.

Reports that Guard members were being “vetted” before Biden’s inauguration because of fears of an “inside” attack had prompted backlash from Abbott who vowed to never send his troops again to be “disrespected.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted that he had ordered the state’s Guardsmen back home.

Politico reporter Lara Seligman tweeted an update Thursday night saying a Guard source told her “all units at the Thurgood Marshall parking garage are ordered to relocate to the CVC immediately.”

“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,” the Guard said in a statement.

“The United States Capitol Police immensely appreciates the integral support of the U.S. National Guard in helping to secure the Capitol Complex leading up to, and including the Inaugural ceremony. The Department is grateful for their service and our strong partnership during this time,” the U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement.

“The Department’s request for National Guard assistance included a specific number of personnel to allow the National Guard to provide, at a minimum, 12 hours of off-campus rest time for the troops, and understood that this would be carried out throughout their deployment,” the statement continued. “Recently, the Department requested that the troops’ schedules be changed so they work no more than 8-hour shifts to allow for more off-campus rest time post-Inauguration.”

Last week, cots were quickly provided to troops after photos of them sleeping on the floors in the halls of Congress went viral, sparking complaints about their treatment just days after they were being used for photo opportunities.

“Despicable & Predictable,” Fox Business host Charles Payne tweeted. “The public is played by power-hungry politicians fanning flames of our greatest fears and frustrations rather than seeking solutions. But to use the National Guard as a political prop then treat them like this is despicable. But sadly predictable.”

Frieda Powers

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