After spending days in the cold securing the United States Capitol after the deadly siege two weeks ago, citizen members of the National Guard have been asked to leave the Capitol building and relocate to a nearby parking garage to rest during their shifts. The decision drew swift condemnation from lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called the move “outrageous.”
At around 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Capitol police asked the National Guard to relocate the soldiers that were using Capitol hallways and open space to rest during their shifts, National Guard Bureau spokesman Major Matt Murphy told CBS News.
“As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area,” Murphy said. “They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities.”
About 3,500 National Guardsmen have been moved out of the Capitol, but not all are in the parking garage at the same time. During their guard duty shifts, members are cycled into the garage to warm up and take a break, and the guardsmen return to a hotel when their shift is over.
Some guardsmen have expressed displeasure at being moved to a parking garage. While the garage has heat and lights, there are limited restrooms, cell phone and internet service, and power outlets.
Politico first reported the move, which prompted outrage from lawmakers. “This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the U.S. Capitol safe and secure,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema. “We need it fixed and we need answers on how it happened.”
“Unreal. I can’t believe that the same brave servicemembers we’ve been asking to protect our Capitol and our Constitution these last two weeks would be unceremoniously ordered to vacate the building,” said Senator Tammy Duckworth. “I am demanding answers ASAP. They can use my office.”
Murphy told CBS News that “They had to go somewhere, is my understanding. There is always going to be some ruffled feathers, some people are not going to like. The troops press on. They still perform their mission duties and that’s what they are doing.”
Both Duckworth and Sinema later tweeted that they have been informed that the guardsmen will be moved out of the parking lot, but the decision has not been officially announced.
Capitol Police said in a statement Thursday night that the department “immensely appreciates the integral support of the U.S. National Guard in helping to secure the Capitol Complex leading up to, and including the Inaugural ceremony.” The department said it has recently requested that guard members’ shifts be shortened to allow for more off-campus rest time.