National Guard troops finish mission to defend US Capitol from attackers

Departure marks end of five-month mission to guard complex against future attacks after January 6 insurrection

Members of the National Guard patrol the grounds of the US Capitol in Washington. AFP
Members of the National Guard patrol the grounds of the US Capitol in Washington. AFP

The US National Guard on Monday ended a nearly five-month mission to protect the Capitol complex after January 6, when a mob loyal to former president Donald Trump stormed Congress in a failed bid to overturn the 2020 election results.

The mission, which involved about 2,000 personnel guarding Capitol Hill, ended on Sunday.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the soldiers and airmen of the National Guard, who for the last five months have been standing watch over the Capitol grounds in Washington, DC,” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said.

“They came here from all 54 states and territories, leaving behind jobs, homes and families to bolster security at the Capitol after the dramatic events on January 6.

“These airmen and soldiers protected not only the grounds, but the lawmakers working on those grounds, ensuring the people’s business could continue unabated.

"They lived out in very tangible ways the oath they took to support and defend the constitution.”

At the height of the mission, about 5,200 troops were stationed throughout central Washington alongside a security barrier that extended several blocks outside the Capitol, barring public access to the complex.

Security personnel removed the fence in March when the mission was initially scheduled to expire, but the Pentagon extended the National Guard's posting in a more limited size to the end of this month at the request of local authorities.

“It’s been a trying but telling year for the National Guard,” Mr Austin said.

"“Between natural disasters, civil unrest and an ongoing pandemic, our guardsmen and women have been tested time and time again. And each time, they have performed magnificently.”

While the general public has been able to walk outside the Capitol complex since March, the building and surrounding offices remain closed to tourists and constituents because of pandemic restrictions that have been in place for more than a year.

The Secret Service this month removed a fence barring public access to Lafayette Square in front of the White House.

The White House fence was erected about a year ago after Mr Trump had security forces violently disperse a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters so he could go to a nearby church to pose for a picture while holding a Bible.

Updated: May 25, 2021 02:56 AM

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