Lawmakers’ fury after National Guard banished to car park
Members of the National Guard have been allowed back into the Capitol Complex after a slate of lawmakers voiced their outrage at guardsmen being banished to a car park as a rest area.
The Guard will now be allowed to rest in the US Capitol Visitor Center, a guardsman told CNN.
The change comes after thousands of National Guardsmen were moved to a parking garage after they were told they could no longer use space within the US Capitol Complex, including areas like the cafeteria of a Senate office building, as a rest area, multiple Guardsmen told CNN.
Prior to Thursday morning, several areas throughout the Capitol Complex were designated as authorized rest areas where members of the Guard could take breaks from their shifts protecting Capitol. By Thursday morning, all those areas had been cleared out and their designations removed, the Guardsmen said.
“We honestly just feel betrayed,” one guardsman told CNN earlier Thursday, noting that a day before, congressmen had come by for photos with the different National Guards units that came to Washington to support security around the inauguration. “After everything went seamlessly, we were deemed useless and banished to a corner of a parking garage.”
News of the guardsmen’s situation, which was first reported by Politico, drew swift outrage from lawmakers who tweeted their concern over the situation.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, tweeted, “Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologised to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight. I’ll keep checking to make sure they are.”
And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, tweeted, “This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the US Capitol safe and secure. We need it fixed and we need answers on how it happened.”
Pictures provided to CNN showed guardsmen sitting or lying down in areas cordoned off with caution tape. Some appeared to be sleeping by resting against concrete pillars in the garage, just a few feet away from parked cars.
There was one electrical outlet and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops, one guardsman told CNN.
Though many of the troops in the pictures are wearing masks, some are not, which the guardsman said was against guidance and a serious COVID risk, calling it “totally unacceptable.”
“Our guidance is if you’re not eating or drinking, you need to be wearing a mask. We’ve already had just some in my unit alone test positive for Covid, and they’re just keeping us packed together with caution tape in small areas,” said that guardsman.
“And that’s the only authorised rest area.”