Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is offering to host National Guard service members in her Capitol Hill office during breaks amidst outrage over images of the soldiers, who were summoned to the nation’s capital to protect lawmakers during inauguration week, being made to spend their downtime in a frigid, smog-filled parking garage.
‘Yeah this is not okay,’ the Democratic congresswoman from New York tweeted on Thursday in reaction to an image showing soldiers lying on the cold pavement inside the Senate garage after they were told to clear out of the US Capitol building.
‘My office is free this week to any service members who’d like to use it for a break or take nap on the couch. We’ll stock up on snacks for you all too.’
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is offering to host National Guard service members in her Capitol Hill office during breaks amidst outrage over images of the soldiers, who were summoned to the nation’s capital to protect lawmakers during inauguration week, being made to spend their downtime in a frigid, smog-filled parking garage. Guardsmen are seen above inside the Senate garage on Thursday
The Democratic congresswoman from New York (seen above on the floor of the House chamber on January 3) offered to host National Guard service members in her office for snacks and a nap
AOC added in parenthesis: ‘We’re in the middle of moving offices and it’s a bit messy so don’t judge, but make yourself at home!’
‘Yeah this is not okay,’ the Democratic congresswoman from New York tweeted on Thursday in reaction to an image showing soldiers lying on the cold pavement inside the Senate garage after they were told to clear out of the US Capitol building
Her generous offer was made just before thousands of National Guardsmen were allowed to return to the US Capitol after images of them sleeping outside and in a nearby parking garage overnight sparked outrage 24 hours after the inauguration.
In a follow-up tweet, AOC wrote: ‘Update: looks like they’re letting them back into the Capitol. The offer on snacks, etc still stands!’
AOC later tweeted: ‘Update Part 2: The snacks have been delivered!’
Capitol Police apologized late on Thursday after it emerged they had asked the troops brought in to protect Washington DC to leave the Capitol building and take their rest breaks in a nearby designated parking lot instead.
Photos showed up to 5,000 Guardsmen sleeping on the floor of the packed Thurgood Marshall Building parking lot and in a park outside as temperatures hit a low of 40 degrees.
The scenes sparked immediate outrage among lawmakers as some Guardsmen revealed they felt ‘incredibly betrayed’ given they had just spent more than a week helping to fortify and protect the capital.
It has prompted the governors of some states, including New Hampshire and Florida, to order the immediate return of their Guardsmen from DC.
‘I’ve ordered the immediate return of all New Hampshire National Guard from Washington DC. They did an outstanding job serving our nation’s capital in a time of strife and should be graciously praised, not subject to substandard conditions,’ New Hampshire Gov Chris Sununu tweeted on Friday morning.
Footage obtained by NBC News showed the Guardsmen filing out of the parking lot overnight after they were permitted around midnight to return to the Capitol building in the wake of the fierce backlash.
It followed reports that the troops had been kicked out of the Capitol, with some Guardsmen saying the parking lot they were relocated to had a single power outlet, no internet and just one bathroom with two stalls, according to Politico.
Thousands of National Guardsmen have now been allowed to return to the US Capitol after images of them sleeping outside and in a nearby parking garage overnight sparked outrage 24 hours after the inauguration. Troops are pictured above leaving the Thurgood Marshall Building parking lot just after dawn on Friday
The troops, pictured leaving the parking garage, will now take their breaks near the Emancipation Hall inside the Capitol building going forward
Footage obtained by NBC News showed the Guardsmen filing out of the Thurgood Marshall Building parking lot in Washington DC overnight after they were permitted around midnight to return to the Capitol building in the wake of the fierce backlash
Guard spokesman Maj. Matt Murphy said Capitol Police had asked the troops to move their rest area given the increased foot traffic in the Capitol building given 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,’ he said.
The scenes prompted governors of some states, including New Hampshire and Florida, to order the immediate return of their Guardsmen from DC
Capitol Police apologized in the wake of the outrage but Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman clarified in a statement on Friday morning that police did not tell Guardsmen they had to vacate.
‘It was brought to our attention early today that facility management with the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Office Building reached out directly to the National Guard to offer use of its facilities,’ Pittman said.
‘As of this morning, all Guardsmen and women have been relocated to space within the Capitol Complex. The Department is also working with the Guard to reduce the need for sleeping accommodations by establishing shorter shifts, and will ensure they have access to the comfortable accommodations they absolutely deserve when the need arises.’
Both the Guard and Capitol Police issued a joint statement Friday afternoon saying they have now coordinated to establish ‘appropriate spaces’ within Congressional buildings for on-duty breaks.
The statement noted that off-duty troops have hotel rooms or ‘other comfortable accommodations.’
The troops will take their breaks near the Emancipation Hall inside the Capitol building going forward.
The soldiers do have hotel rooms but their 12 hour shift pattern means they cannot easily return to their rooms during rest breaks.
Before being located to the parking lot, the troops had been allowed to take rest breaks inside the Capitol building.
Once they finish their shift, the Guardsmen then return to their hotel rooms.
National Guard soldiers are pictured sleeping inside the Capitol Visitors Center of the US Capitol on Friday after being allowed back in
Members of the National Guard rest in the Capitol Visitor Center on Friday morning
Members of the National Guard from South Dakota stood guard outside the Capitol building on Friday. It’s not clear how long they will remain
Members of the National Guard from South Dakota were still on patrol in Washington DC on Friday following the inauguration
One unnamed soldier had earlier said the forced move to the parking lot had left troops ‘feeling incredibly betrayed’.
‘Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service. Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,’ he said.
Another guardsman told CNN: ‘After everything went seamlessly, we were deemed useless and banished to a corner of a parking garage.’ One more told Task & Purpose: ‘Leaving our families for the last two weeks to come down here. It’s certainly important and historic, but the day after inauguration you kick us literally to the curb? Come on, man.’
Amid concerns about COVID-19 one soldier told The Washington Post : ‘We are on top of each other all day, every day. We’ve given up.’ Another added: ‘Our guidance is if you’re not eating or drinking, you need to be wearing a mask. We’ve already had just some in my unit alone test positive for Covid, and they’re just keeping us packed together with caution tape in small areas. And that’s the only authorized rest area.’
The images of the Guardsmen sparked fierce reaction from politicians on both sides of the aisle, with Democrats and Republicans demanding answers as to why the men and women were told to leave the Capitol complex.
Some offered their offices to the troops.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the soldiers ‘deserve to be treated with respect’; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the move was ‘outrageous’.
Idaho National Guard troops sleep and eat on the eastern lawn of the US Capitol building on Capitol Hill on Thursday
New Hampshire National Guard posted this image Wednesday with the caption: ‘NH guardsmen slumber last night in a Washington, D.C. parking garage. Beginning a 36-hour security mission in support of the presidential inauguration, they staged in the garage overnight before standing security posts along the National Capital Region this morning’
Up to 5,000 troops have been kept without internet, with one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls, reports say
Pictures show Guardsmen sleeping on the floor of the packed parking lot Thursday, just 24 hours after the inauguration
Congressman Madison Cawthorn posted to Instagram: ‘I just visited the soldiers who have been abandoned & insulted by our leaders. I brought them pizza and told them that they can sleep in my office. No soldier will ever, ever sleep on a garage floor in the US Capitol while I work in Congress Our Troops deserve better’
Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, said Capitol Police had apologized to the troops.
‘Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight. I’ll keep checking to make sure they are,’ she tweeted.
She had earlier said: ‘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.
Following fierce reaction online from politicians on both sides of the aisle Senator Tammy Duckworth tweeted: ‘Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight’
‘I am demanding answers ASAP. They can use my office.’
Shortly after midnight Duckworth confirmed the ‘troops are now all out of the garage’.
The National Guard Bureau said on Thursday that of the nearly 26,000 Guard troops deployed to DC for the inauguration, just 10,600 remain on duty.
The bureau said the Guard is helping states with coordination and logistics so that troops can get home.
But following reports of the guardsmen sleeping in parking lots House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted: ‘Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer -why are American troops who are tasked with keeping security at the Capitol being forced to sleep in a parking lot?
‘They deserve to be treated with respect, and we deserve answers.’
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said: ‘If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this.’
President Joe Biden expressed his ‘dismay’ on Friday morning to General Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, about how the troops had been treated, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
About 25,000 Guard members from across the country deployed to help secure Biden’s inauguration, which went off with only a handful of minor arrests.
Psaki said the president thanked Hokanson and the Guard for their help the last few weeks and offered his assistance if Hokanson needed anything.
Officials said Thursday that of the nearly 26,000 Guard troops deployed to D.C. for the inaugural, just 10,600 remain on duty
Guard spokesperson Maj. Matt Murphy had said: ‘As Congress is in session and increased foot traffic and business is being conducted, Capitol Police asked the troops to move their rest area. They were temporarily relocated to the Thurgood Marshall Judicial Center garage with heat and restroom facilities’
First Lady Jill Biden visited Guard troops outside the Capitol on Friday, bringing them cookies and thanking them for protecting her family.
She noted that the Bidens’ late son, Beau, served in the Delaware Army National Guard.
Thousands of Guard troops from all across the country poured into DC by the planeload and busload late last week in response to escalating security threats and fears of more rioting.
Military aircraft crowded the runways at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, carrying Guard members into the region in the wake of the deadly January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol.
Guard forces were scattered around the city, helping to secure the Capitol, monuments, Metro entrances and the perimeter of central DC, which was largely locked down for several days leading up to Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony.
After images of the men and women forced to sleep in the parking lot were shared Republican Sen. Mike Lee said: ‘Very upset by this story but I have been in touch with the Utah National Guard and they are taken care of. My staff and I are investigating what happened here and will continue working to fix this situation.’
Democrat Sen. Krysten Sinema tweeted: ‘This is outrageous, shameful, and incredibly disrespectful to the men and women keeping the U.S. Capitol safe and secure. We need it fixed and we need answers on how it happened.’
Congressman Madison Cawthorn posted to Instagram: ‘I just visited the soldiers who have been abandoned & insulted by our leaders. I brought them pizza and told them that they can sleep in my office. No soldier will ever, ever sleep on a garage floor in the US Capitol while I work in Congress Our Troops deserve better.’
Rep. Elise Stefanik tweeted: ‘Every member of Congress should be appalled by this despicable treatment of the men and women of the National Guard, who answered the call to protect our nation’s capital. Speaker Pelosi is in charge of the Capitol complex. She must provide answers immediately.’
The Secret Service announced that the special security event for the inauguration officially ended at noon Thursday.
The Guard said that it may take several days to make all the arrangements to return the 15,000 home, but it should be complete in five to 10 days. Guard members will have to turn in equipment, make travel plans and go through COVID-19 screening.
Some local law enforcement agencies have asked for continued assistance from the Guard, so roughly 7,000 troops are expected to stay in the region through the end of the month.
Pictures of the armed camouflage-clad troops resting on the marble floors of the Capitol building and patrolling the grounds had already been widely shared in the wake of the January 6 siege. It is believed to be the first time troops have set up camp in the Capitol since the Civil War.
Throngs of guardsmen were seen cradling their guns as they slept in the open on the floor and took turns making rounds of the Capitol grounds.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed some of the troops outside the Capitol building to thank them for their service just hours before the House of Representatives started debating impeaching President Trump for a second time.
Members of the National Guard play cards in the Capitol Visitors Center the day after the inauguration of President Joe Biden
Members of the National Guard sleep in the Capitol Visitors Center Thursday. The U.S. Secret Service announced that the special security event for the inauguration officially ended at noon Thursday
Thousands of Guard troops from all across the country poured into D.C. by the planeload and busload late last week, in response to escalating security threats and fears of more rioting
National Guard troops continue to be deployed around the Capitol Thursday