U.S. Capitol Police abruptly relocated the break area for thousands of National Guard members providing security in Washington, D.C. off Capitol grounds today and into a crowded garage with limited restroom facilities, prompting an outcry from some troops.
Roughly 26,000 Guard members were rushed into D.C. to support federal law enforcement for Wednesday's inauguration of President Joe Biden after a violent riot on Jan. 6 led to a breach of the Capitol.
A week ago, Guard troops were photographed resting on the floors of the Capitol while on breaks during 12-hour guard-duty shifts.
Politico reported that one day after the uneventful inauguration ceremony, Guard members were told to take their breaks in a parking garage "without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops."
"Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service," one Guard member told Politico. "Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed."
The news comes after the Guard announced today that 15,000 Guard members will be rapidly leaving D.C. to return to their home states over the next 10 days.
The National Guard Bureau put out a statement Thursday night, stressing that the Guard continues to support the U.S. Capitol Police to secure the area around the Capitol and other monuments in D.C.
"As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area," according to the statement.
"They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and rest room facilities.
"We remain an agile and flexible force to provide for the safety and security of the Capitol and its surrounding areas."
Some troops seemed to take the move in stride, as one Guard member told Politico that there may be an "important reason for us to vacate, and it just hasn't been well communicated yet."
Two soldiers were concerned about being in the tight space with just one restroom during the COVID-19 pandemic, and told Politico that "at least 100 Guard members had tested positive" for the virus.
On June 15, District of Columbia National Guard officials said that 43 Guard members had tested positive for COVID-19, but were unable to confirm an updated number when contacted Thursday night.
Now that the inauguration has passed, some Guard troops could begin leaving as soon as this weekend, Guard officials said today.
Approximately 7,000 Guard troops are expected to remain in D.C. through the end of January.
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.