National Guard: President Biden Apologises Over Troops Sleeping in Car Park
More than 25,000 troops were deployed to Washington DC for his inauguration after violence earlier this month.
Images spread on Thursday showing them forced to rest in a nearby parking garage after lawmakers returned.
The conditions sparked anger among politicians, and some state governors recalled troops over the controversy.
“I just wanted to come today to say thank you to all of you for keeping me and my family safe,” she said.
The photographs showing hundreds of troops in a parking garage went viral on Thursday and sparked outrage, including from members of Congress.
Our troops deserve the utmost honor & respect for securing the Capitol & defending democracy this week.
This is unconscionable & unsafe. Whoever’s decision this was to house our National Guardsmen & women in underground parking lots must be held accountable. pic.twitter.com/mBwpoog6YC
— Tim Scott (@SenatorTimScott) January 22, 2021
Yeah this is not okay.
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.
(We’re in the middle of moving offices and it’s a bit messy so don’t judge, but make yourself at home!) https://t.co/JyEvC4kg6o
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 22, 2021
Many voiced concerns about the conditions, with guardsmen exposed to car fumes and without proper access to facilities like toilets after having been on alert for days.
Images of the cramped conditions also sparked fears about the spread of coronavirus.
A US official, speaking anonymously to Reuters news agency, said on Friday that between 100 and 200 of those deployed had tested positive for Covid-19. The figure – which would represent a small proportion of the more than 25,000 deployed, has not been publicly confirmed.
Chuck Schumer, a Democrat and the new Senate majority leader, said that the move was “an outrage” and pledged it “will never happen again”.
Ron DeSantis, Florida’s governor, was among those who said he had ordered guards from his state to return home following the controversy.
“This is a half-cocked mission at this point and the appropriate thing is to bring them home,” he told Fox News on Friday.
The Senate Rules Committee is also investigating the issue, Senator Roy Blunt told Politico.
There are conflicting reports about why the troops were moved from the Capitol.
The acting chief of the Capitol Police, Yogananda Pittman, later said her agency “did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities”, while two officers contradicted her statement in comments to the Associated Press news agency.
The decision was reversed later on Thursday, when the troops were allowed to return to the Capitol.
They also said off-duty troops were being housed in hotel rooms or other accommodation and thanked members of Congress for their concern.
Some 19,000 guardsmen will return to their home states in the coming days with about 7,000 expected to stay on in Washington, according to the New York Times.