National Guard forces called upon to protect the inauguration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as president slept for hours in an unheated garage after being booted out of the Capitol on Thursday, causing an uproar among lawmakers who tried to bring them back.
The troops were among the more than 20,000 employees of the National Guard who took care of the inauguration on Wednesday. They were relocated to the nearby Thurgood Marshall Federal Justice Building Thursday afternoon, said Capt.Edwin Nieves Jr., spokesman for the Washington, DC branch of the National Guard.
Early Friday morning, the DC Guard announced that the soldiers had been brought from the parking garage back to the Capitol. Captain Nieves said they would take future breaks “near the Emancipation Hall,” part of the Capitol complex.
Captain Nieves said the guards were temporarily relocated from the Capitol on Thursday afternoon at the request of the Capitol Police because pedestrian traffic “increased” when Congress returned to session. He did not state how many soldiers had been moved.
The Capitol Police could not be reached immediately for comment on Friday morning.
Two Guards soldiers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had been relocated without explanation and that they were without electricity, heat or adequate toilet facilities. One soldier estimated 1,000 soldiers to share a portable toilet outside the garage.
“No instructions on the mission, mission duration, nothing,” said the soldier.
The soldiers also said their fellow forces inhaled exhaust fumes because the garage at the Thurgood Marshall Center was still being used for parking.
Captain Nieves said the garage had heating and toilets.
Reports of the move sparked protests by lawmakers from both parties, including the House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York. Some offered to house the guards in their offices.
“This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed,” wrote Senator Mark Kelly, Democrat of Arizona, on Twitter.
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.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that 12 guards were released from their duties at Mr Biden’s inauguration after officials discovered they had written texts and social media posts making threatening comments to political officials.