National Guard Fills Capitol for Impeachment Vote

National Guard Fills Capitol for Impeachment Vote

2021-01-14 02:01:18

WASHINGTON – They slept on the marble floors, lined up for coffee at the 24-hour snack bar, and marveled at the marble likenesses of the nation's founders in the Rotunda and Statuary Hall. They took pictures with their phones, ate pizza, and sometimes played cards with their M4 carbines at their sides.

Masses of armed, camouflage-fatigued members of the National Guard surrounded the Capitol and lined the halls on Wednesday, weapons, helmets and backpacks seemingly lay in every corner of the complex. The heavily militarized presence provided a shocking and sobering backdrop to the House of Representatives as a majority of lawmakers accused a sitting US president of instigating an uprising in the Capitol.

It brought back memories of the rioters who stormed the complex just a week earlier when the terrified residents took refuge in the barricaded House room and secured locations across the street from the Capitol – and the allegations that persisted before the elected President Joseph R. Biden Jr. inauguration.

"It doesn't belong here," said Virginia Democrat Representative Elaine Luria, a veteran who served in the Navy for 20 years, of the military presence in the building. "It's something out of place."

“I hate the idea that we are going to change in some way, become harder, harder or more cumbersome for people to enjoy the historic landmark that this is because of what happened last week,” she added.

"I don't have enough adjectives to describe how disgusted I am at what happened and the point we are at – it's sad, it's disgusting, it's sad," said Florida Republican Representative Brian Mast. An Army veteran who lost his legs while serving in Afghanistan. He gave tours of the Rotunda to members of the Guard as a way of showing their gratitude for their service. (Mr. Mast also voted to reverse the results in both Arizona and Pennsylvania, and expressed no regret for those votes. He was not among the 10 Republicans Who Voted To Impeach Mr. Trump.)

Some lawmakers complained about the threat necessitating the presence of the military, with many Democrats outraged at the role they said their own Republican counterparts had played in fueling the anger of the mob that attacked the Capitol , endangering the lives of legislators.

"It should not and will not be tolerated," New York Democrat Representative Hakeem Jeffries told reporters. "And that's why extraordinary security measures have been taken."

"What we're dealing with right now is fighting an uprising, so I feel like everything is turned upside down," said Texas Democrat Representative Colin Allred, who recalled putting his jacket on the floor of the House and prepared to defend his colleagues from the rioters. "To see National Guardsmen sleeping in the hallways, to have the necessary protection to hang metal detectors to go to the house floor – I know the word 'unprecedented' is used a lot, but this is unprecedented And it's so sad, just so sad. "

"It's supposed to be open," added Mr. Allred of the Capitol. "It's a museum, it's a place where ordinary Americans should feel like they can come and see how government works."

But while it houses artifacts from American history as well as the holders of the highest offices of American democracy, the Capitol complex is an accessible fortress in ordinary times. But since tourists were out of the question as a way to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the presence of hundreds of armed forces was even more troubling after months of nearly empty corridors.

Several soldiers who stretched their necks to look at the paintings and sculptures etched into the ceiling of the Rotunda said they had never been to the Capitol, even as tourists. Their colleagues could be seen dozing in another room next to a plaque commemorating troops stationed in the Capitol in 1861, in Statuary Hall, and a small group posed for a photo with the Rosa Parks statue.

John Ismay and Luke Broadwater contributed reporting.


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