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Politico reported on Wednesday evening that National Guard troops drafted in to protect the Capitol after the Pro-Trump riots on 6 January had been asked to move their rest area away from the buildings and into a garage.
Thousands of guardsmen were called up following the riots to help secure President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, and have continued patrolling the Capitol amid ongoing fears of violence.
The troops have been pictured resting and sleeping in Capitol hallways while on their break, but return to a local hotel once their long shifts are over.
Hundreds of Guard soldiers relegated to the Senate garage, breathing in exhaust fumes and covid. Story coming in a bit pic.twitter.com/8OW4frePOh
— Alex Horton (@AlexHortonTX) January 22, 2021
Numerous guardsmen expressed their annoyance at having their rest area moved, claiming that it had limited toilet facilities, plug sockets and poor wifi and mobile phone coverage.
The move was also publicly criticised by several senators, with Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat of Arizona, tweeting: “This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the US Capitol safe and secure.”
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. https://t.co/jDENVwcWQy
— Kyrsten Sinema (@kyrstensinema) January 22, 2021
South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott described the decision as “unconscionable & unsafe,” while Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer called it “outrageous”.
Our troops deserve the utmost honor & respect for securing the Capitol & defending democracy this week.
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
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) January 22, 2021
Several senators also offered their office space to the troops, including Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat from Illinois and a US Army veteran, who called the decision “unreal”.
Following the backlash, on Thursday evening the Guard issued a statement confirming that the troops’ rest area had been moved back inside the Capitol.
“Brig Gen Janeen Birckhead, Inauguration Task Force Commander confirms that troops are out of the garage and back into the Capitol building as authorised by the USCP (US Capitol Police),” the statement read.
“Watch Commander and the troops will take their breaks near Emancipation Hall going forward,” the Guard added.
Ms Duckworth responded to the statement late on Thursday, tweeting: “Update: Troops are now all out of the garage. Now I can go to bed.”
Update: Troops are now all out of the garage. Now I can go to bed.
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) January 22, 2021
Capitol police also released a statement on Thursday evening, writing that it “immensely appreciates the integral support of the US National Guard in helping to secure the Capitol Complex leading up to, and including the Inaugural ceremony.”
The department said earlier in the week that they had requested for the troops’ shifts to be shortened, to allow for more rest time outside of the Capitol buildings, according to CBS News.
Of the close to 26,000 National Guard troops sent to the Capitol following the riots earlier this month, 15,000 are expected to be sent home in the coming days following President Biden’s inauguration ceremony.