Thousands of National Guard troops were forced to move to a Washington parking garage on Thursday after they were told not to take their rest breaks inside buildings on Capitol Hill, according to multiple news reports. The directive was later reversed after outcry from lawmakers.
Guard members resting in the Dirksen Senate Office Building were reportedly asked to leave, forcing them to take their breaks in a nearby parking garage. The garage had few bathrooms, limited internet service and few electrical outlets, and it was being shared by thousands of troops, according to Politico, which first reported the news.
“We honestly just feel betrayed,” one guard member told CNN, noting that a day earlier, lawmakers had walked their lines for photos and handshakes. “After everything went seamlessly, we were deemed useless and banished to a corner of a parking garage,” the guard member said.
Thousands of troops were deployed in Washington after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol raised security fears over Wednesday’s inauguration of President Joe Biden.
Images provided to reporters show National Guard members packed tightly into the parking garage, many lying closely together on the ground or against concrete pillars, sparking serious concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
Guard spokesperson Maj. Matt Murphy told Politicot that U.S. Capitol Police asked troops to move the rest area because of the increase in foot traffice while Congress is in session.
“They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities. We remain an agile and flexible force to provide for the safety and security of the Capitol and its surrounding areas,” Murphy said.
Capitol Police did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
The report brought an uproar from lawmakers, including Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, who called it “unreal” and said she would be demanding answers immediately.
Several members of Congress, including Duckworth and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), offered their offices to guard members. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said it was “outrageous.”
Duckworth tweeted late Thursday that following a number of phone calls, she was informed “Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight.”
She said she spoke personally with the guard forces commander and the acting sergeant at arms and had received confirmation that the last guard member would leave the garage by 11:30 p.m.
HuffPost was unable to reach the D.C. National Guard for comment about the effort to move troops back to the U.S. Capitol. A mailbox for an after-hours spokesperson was full.