A number of lawmakers expressed outrage Thursday night after news reports that National Guard forces mobilized to secure the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had been told that they were no longer sleeping in the Capitol could and would be relocated Thursday afternoon to the parking garage of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building nearby.
“This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed,” wrote Senator Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona, on Twitter. “I will make my office available to all guardsmen who need it and encourage others to do the same.” A number of other lawmakers, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, and Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, also offered their seats.
Two Guards soldiers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had not been given an explanation as to why they would be relocated early Thursday afternoon and that they were without electricity, heat and adequate toilet facilities. A soldier from the station estimated that 1,000 of them share a single portable toilet stationed outside the parking garage.
The two guards said that their fellow armed forces inhaled exhaust fumes because the garage at the Thurgood Marshall Center was still being used as a parking garage. The soldiers there were from the National Guards of Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, and Alabama.
A National Guard Bureau spokesman, asked for comment, put questions to the Washington DC National Guard, which was responsible for the living conditions of the more than 20,000 Guard troops who organized the inauguration.
“During the congressional session and the increase in foot traffic and business, the Capitol Police urged troops to move their rest area outside of the Capitol,” said Captain Edwin Nieves Jr., spokesman for the National Guard in Washington, DC. “They have been temporarily moved to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center’s garage with heating and toilet facilities.”
“We remain an agile and flexible force to ensure the security of the Capitol and the surrounding area,” he added.
The DC National Guard couldn’t immediately tell how many soldiers were in parking garages, how long they would be there, and whether additional portable toilets would be made available to them.
On social media, some lawmakers said they would make an effort to get the troops back to the Capitol.
In a tweet, Connecticut Democrat Senator Chris Murphy said he spoke with the acting chief of Capitol Police about the problem.
A DC Guard spokesman did not immediately respond to a request Thursday night asking about efforts to get troops back to the Capitol.
Earlier this week, 12 guards were removed from their duties after officials discovered texts and social media posts making threatening comments to political officials.