Capitol Police Push Back on Reports National Guard ‘Banished’ to Parking Garage
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Capitol Police on Friday pushed back at multiple media reports that the agency had banished National Guard troops to nearby parking garages following the Biden inauguration.
According to Politico, thousands of National Guardsmen were allowed back into the Capitol Thursday night, hours after Capitol Police officials ordered them to vacate the facility they’d been protecting since the deadly riot at the historic building on Jan. 6.
One unit, which had been spending its down time in the Dirksen Senate Office building, was “forced to rest in a nearby parking garage without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops,” the Politico report said, quoting an unidentified guardsman.
Temperatures in Washington were in the low 40s by nightfall.
The guardsman went on to say he and others in his unit “feel incredibly betrayed.”
But on Friday morning, Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman released a statement that pushed back on that and similar reports that appeared in the New York Post and other newspapers across the nation.
“I want to assure everyone that, with the exception of specific times on Inauguration Day itself while the swearing-in ceremonies were underway, the United States Capitol police did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities,” Pittman said. “And on Inauguration Day, the guard was notified and encouraged to reoccupy the spaces in the Capitol and CVC at 2 p.m.
“Over the past several days, the U.S. Capitol Police has been working tirelessly with its Congressional stakeholders to identify appropriate accommodations across the entire Capitol complex for their use,” the statement continued, adding, “As of this morning, all guardsmen and women have been relocated to space within the Capitol Complex.
“The Department is also working with the guard to reduce the need for sleeping accommodations by establishing shorter shifts, and will ensure they have access to the comfortable accommodations they absolutely deserve when the need arises,” Pittman said.
Despite those assurances, the treatment of the National Guard was roundly condemned in the halls of Congress Friday.
“It came to our attention last night that members of the National Guard, after standing on duty to protect the Capitol for Inauguration Day, keeping us safe, were sleeping in parking garages, in cramped quarters, without proper space or ventilation,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer said on the floor of the Senate.
“It was utterly unacceptable. I have told those who run the security of the Capitol that it can never happen again. And I pledge to every National Guard member that it will not happen again.
“The minute I heard about this outrage last night, we made sure it was fixed immediately,” Schumer continued. “Every member of the guard was found proper accommodations inside and as of this morning, everyone was accounted for and taken care of. This morning, I went over to the CVC, and I spoke to a number of Guardsmen personally to make sure they were okay.
“I want to thank Senators Hassan, Duckworth, Kelly, and Heinrich for their work on this matter last night, as well as Senator Luján, who went around late at night to make sure things were okay as well. And I want to thank all the members who were concerned and lent a hand.
I also want to particularly thank Acting Sergeant at Arms Jennifer Hemingway, who—when we told her about this situation—patrolled the floors of the Capitol complex until past 3 a.m. to ensure that no one was left behind or not where they belonged. And she was back at her desk first thing today to follow up,” Schumer said.
On Friday afternoon, the Capitol Police and National Guard issued a joint statement reiterating that they are “united in the common goal to protect the U.S. Capitol and the Congress during this time. As with any large security operation, coordination and flexibility are required for all involved.
“The USCP and the National Guard have coordinated their efforts to ensure that National Guardsmen and women are stationed throughout the Capitol Complex are in appropriate spaces within Congressional buildings, including the U.S. Capitol, where they may take on-duty breaks. Off-duty troops are being housed in hotel rooms or other comfortable accommodations,” the statement continued.
“The National Guard appreciates the continuous support of Congressional members who expressed concern for our National Guard men and women. The USCP is also grateful for the support of the Congress concerning the wellbeing of the women and men of the Department,” it said.
“The National Guard and the United States Capitol Police both have long histories of serving and protecting our country, and together, we continue in this proud tradition along with our other Federal, state, and local law enforcement partners,” the statement concluded.
The National Guard said Friday it is assisting states in returning troops safely to their homes.
Already, it said, it has reduced a peak of 26,000 troops to about 10,600.
In a written statement demobilization involves a lot of steps including equipment turn-in and accountability, travel arrangements, COVID screening and mitigation.
Troops will leave by ground transportation, airlift provided by the Air National Guard and contracted commercial air as necessary, the statement said.
The National Guard also noted that some agencies are requesting continuity of operations, additional support and recuperation time for their forces to regroup.
Approximately 7,000 National Guard personnel are anticipated to provide that assistance through the end of the month.
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