WASHINGTON — The head of the National Guard says at least10,000 troops will be deployed in Washington, D.C., by Saturday, and an additional 5,000 could be requested from other states.
There are currently 6,200 Guard members in the city from D.C. and six nearby states. The increase in requests for Guard members on Monday comes as officials brace for more, possibly violent protests surrounding the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden.
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters that he has the authorization to bring in up to 15,000 Guard members. He said the number of deployments is changing by the hour and day, based on requests from the Secret Service, the Park Police and the Capitol Police.
On Tuesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser met with about 215 National Guard members from Virginia on the steps of the Library of Congress to thank them for their service and assistance ahead of Inauguration Day. Bowser told the members that their work was needed to protect the buildings at the nation's capital. Northam shared his sentiments on the importance of their work to protect the county's democracy.
"We're going to take care of you but, we want to make sure you take care of us and take care of our democracy," Northam said.
There have been repeated questions about why Guard members weren’t brought in more quickly as the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol unfolded on Wednesday. Guard officials have said they responded as quickly as they could as the situation spiraled out of control but said the Capitol Police repeatedly turned down offers for help in the days before the protests.
According to the Washington Post, the National Guard members will carry weapons based on discussions with the FBI, police and other agencies.
As of Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for the National Guard said to date, 32 guard members in D.C. have tested positive for COVID. He said they are encouraging members to follow CDC guidelines, including wearing masks, social distancing, and increased hygiene practices.