Legions of National Guard members were let back into the U.S. Capitol on Thursday night after being forced out of a Capitol cafeteria resting area and into a parking garage nearby, according to multiple reports.
“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, who first reported the news. “Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed.”
Two soldiers told The Washington Post that the move put the group, which has been responsible for protecting the nation’s Capitol, into the onslaught of moving cars, exhaust fumes and troops potentially infected with the coronavirus.
The abrupt transfer came Thursday afternoon with no explanation, the soldiers told the Post. Due to the nature of their scheduling it’s often difficult for Guard members to return to hotels rooms for naps since many of those accommodations are in Virginia and Maryland, officials told the Post.
Capt. Edwin Nieves Jr., a D.C. National Guard spokesman, said in a statement obtained by the publication that the relocation was temporary.
“As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, U.S. Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area outside of the Capitol,” Nieves said. “They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities.”
Later on Thursday night, lawmakers said the service members would be moved back to the Capitol after images of Nation Guard member sleeping on floors surfaced and invited sharp criticism for the mistreatment of a group that has been ensuring safety around the Capitol in the aftermath of the deadly riot led by former President Trump’s supporters on Jan. 6.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), an Army veteran who served in Iraq, condemned the move.
“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,” she said in a tweet adding that she would demand answers.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told a pool reporter that the move was an “outrage,” thanked the troops and vowed that their displacement to the garage would not happen again.
— Alan He (@alanhe) January 22, 2021
In interviews with the Post, two soldiers, both noncommissioned officers in the Maryland National Guard, estimated hundreds of troops had been moved to the garage.
They added that COVID-19 has been running rampant in their ranks, and one even knew several members who had been infected, but when asked said no protocols were in place to prevent transmission of the virus.
“We are on top of each other all day, every day. We’ve given up,” one soldier said.