Capitol Police acting chief: We didn’t tell National Guard to leave Capitol facilities

National Guard troops rest in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center two days before the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Following reports that National Guard troops had been booted from the Capitol Complex in D.C. and told to use a parking garage as a rest area, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said Friday that her agency ordered no such thing.

“I want to assure everyone that, with the exception of specific times on Inauguration Day itself while the swearing-in ceremonies were underway, the United States Capitol Police did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities,” Pittman said in a statement emailed to WTOP. “And on Inauguration Day, the Guard was notified and encouraged to reoccupy the spaces in the Capitol and CVC at 2 p.m.”

She said the Capitol Police have been working “tirelessly” to find accommodations for Guard troops throughout the Capitol Complex and that, “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.”

Troops had been using designated areas throughout the Capitol Complex as authorized rest spots where members of the Guard could take breaks from their shifts protecting the Capitol. Between shifts, the troops are staying in area hotels.

The Washington Post and Politico reported Thursday that hundreds of Guard troops were forced out of areas of the Capitol they had been using for rest breaks and were relocated to a nearby garage. Photos of the troops in the garage drew outrage from lawmakers.

“We honestly just feel betrayed,” one Guardsman told CNN, noting that a day before, congressmen had come by for photos with the different National Guard units that came to Washington to support security around the inauguration. “After everything went seamlessly, we were deemed useless and banished to a corner of a parking garage.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., an Iraq War veteran and retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, 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’ll keep checking to make sure they are.”

After midnight, Duckworth tweeted an update: “Troops are now all out of the garage. Now I can go to bed.” Politico reported that they had been allowed back into the Capitol.

A majority of the troops who had been stationed in the District to provide protection during President Joe Biden’s inauguration in the wake of the deadly Capitol riot on Jan. 6 are headed home.

The National Guard Bureau said Thursday that of the nearly 26,000 Guard troops deployed to D.C. for the inaugural, just 10,600 remain on duty. The bureau said the Guard is helping states with coordination and the logistics so that troops can get home.

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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up