Thousands of National Guard troops were kicked out of the U.S. Capitol and other federal buildings and forced to relocate to a Washington, D.C., parking garage on Thursday night. Photos of National Guard troops sleeping on the pavement in cramped and near-freezing conditions without sufficient access to lavatories quickly went viral online.
Hundreds of Guard soldiers relegated to the Senate garage, breathing in exhaust fumes and covid. Story coming in a… https://t.co/Vyh11Rub1j— Alex Horton (@Alex Horton) 1611283456.0
MILITARY SOURCE IN DC: “For the last week my battalion has been sleeping on the floor in the Senate cafeteria. Toda… https://t.co/Sp6MTjBRzF— Benny (@Benny) 1611275103.0
One Guardsman told 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."
Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn from North Carolina visited the National Guard troops in the parking garage and brought them pizza.
Cawthorn said the troops were "abandoned & insulted by our leaders," and that they "deserve better." The freshman congressman also said the soldiers could sleep in his office.
"No soldier will ever, ever sleep on a garage floor in the US Capitol while I work in Congress," Cawthorn wrote on a Twitter post that featured a video of him handing out pizza pies to the military members, who had been working 12-hour shifts.
https://t.co/14lwmpcomW— Madison Cawthorn (@Madison Cawthorn) 1611287583.0
Cawthorn wasn't the only member of Congress who offered an office to the neglected National Guard troops. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was also sickened by how the soldiers were treated and offered her office to the troops.
"This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the U.S. Capitol safe and secure," Sinema tweeted on Thursday. "We need it fixed and we need answers on how it happened."
"My office is available; the Guard is welcome to it," she added. "There is plenty of space in the US Capitol for the men and women keeping us safe."
My office is available; the Guard is welcome to it. There is plenty of space in the US Capitol for the men and wome… https://t.co/eZsBkAJZEY— Kyrsten Sinema (@Kyrsten Sinema) 1611281066.0
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted, "Yeah this is not okay. My office is free this week to any service members who'd like to use it for a break or take nap on the couch. We'll stock up on snacks for you all too."
Yeah this is not okay. My office is free this week to any service members who’d like to use it for a break or take… https://t.co/hv07bybmvV— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) 1611284769.0
World Central Kitchen, a not-for-profit organization founded by celebrity chef José Andrés that provides meals to those in need, delivered soup to the troops.
REPORT from the parking garage where National Guard troops were re-assigned to take breaks instead of the US Capito… https://t.co/3J8BrZKR2V— World Central Kitchen (@World Central Kitchen) 1611288255.0
The National Guard troops have since been allowed to return to the Capitol complex following the uproar of the mistreatment.
National Guard Bureau spokesman Wayne Hall said the decision to remove the soldiers was not made by lawmakers, but upon request to the Capitol Police by "staffers."
"Our understanding is that the unfortunate request for the National Guard to be relocated was made to the Capitol Police by a couple of staffers, without the knowledge of the Congressional members," Hall told Military Times. "This morning, all of the break areas used by the National Guard on duty at the Capitol are inside buildings."
However, that contradicts what the U.S. Capitol Police have said.
"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," declared Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman on the department's website on Friday. "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," Pittman stated.
"It was brought to our attention early today that facility management with the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Office Building reached out directly to the National Guard to offer use of its facilities," the statement said.
"As of this morning, all Guardsmen and women have been relocated to space within the Capitol Complex," Pittman proclaimed. "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."
Approximately 25,000 National Guard troops were summoned to D.C. to provide security during the inauguration of President Joe Biden and were cleared to use lethal force against threats.