WASHINGTON — About 1,000 members of the Michigan National Guard are deploying to Washington to help with security amid heightened concerns about further civil unrest in the capital city in the coming weeks.
In response, Republican members of Michigan’s congressional delegation are seeking an “immediate” intelligence briefing from federal officials to justify the state’s Guard returning to Washington.
The House lawmakers noted that nearly 700 of the Guard just returned to Michigan last week after serving at the U.S. Capitol during President Joe Biden’s inauguration and only had a short time with their families at home before redeploying.
“The men and the women of the Michigan National Guard will without question continue to answer the call to honorably serve both our state and our nation,” the lawmakers wrote in a Thursday letter.
“In recent weeks, they have sacrificed and put their own safety at risk to protect our nation’s capital. It is critical that there remains due justification to send members of Michigan’s National Guard back to Washington, D.C.”
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Led by U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga of Holland, the letter addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was signed by Reps. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, Tim Walberg of Tipton, Lisa McClain of Bruce Township and Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids Township.
A copy also was sent to Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman and Acting Sergeant at Arms for the U.S. House, Timothy Blodgett.
The Michigan delegation members from both sides of the aisle had met with the troops last week at FedEx Field, where the Washington Football Team plays, before the soldiers returned home.
About 25,000 National Guard troops from around the country were brought to the District of Columbia ahead of Biden’s inauguration to help maintain order after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol that led to five deaths, including a Capitol Police officer and four rioters.
Now, a few thousand Guard members will be stationed in Washington for six more weeks over concerns about more unrest stemming from the impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump. Biden is also expected to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress in the coming weeks.
The number of Guard troops had fallen to 15,000 as of Monday and was expected to be reduced to 7,000 by Friday and to 5,000 by mid-March, Acting Secretary of the Army John Whitley said this week in a press briefing.
“There are several upcoming events — we don’t know what they are — over the next several weeks, and they’re concerned that there could be situations where there are lawful protests, First Amendment-protected protests that could either be used by malicious actors or other problems that could emerge,” Whitley said.
The Michigan National Guard received a request for 1,000 soldiers last week through the National Guard Bureau to assist the Capitol Police through mid-March with ongoing security needs at the Capitol, according to a memo that Steve Kozera, federal liaison for the Michigan National Guard, sent to members of Congress.
The Guard members are coming from units across Michigan, with about half deploying to Washington on Thursday and the rest on Sunday.
Whitley said the National Guard troops in Washington also will assist the U.S. Secret Service, the Park Police and the municipal Metropolitan Police Department, which covers the city of the District of Columbia.
Their role will include providing security, medical evacuation, communications and logistical support to law enforcement, Whitley said.
National Guard officials said they were concerned about an outbreak of COVID-19 among soldiers providing security at the Capitol complex, with at least 200 testing positive and quarantining in local hotels as of Monday.
Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, noted that is less than 1% of the 25,000 troops who were in town.
City leaders have signaled that they understand the need for the extra security but don’t want to see troops occupying their streets long term.
“Based on conversations with federal partners, there are some potentially volatile events upcoming that will require extra security. Fencing and the presence of troops will be a part of that,” tweeted D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat.
“But we will not accept extra troops or permanent fencing as a long-term fixture in DC.”
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