Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday dispatched members of the New Hampshire National Guard to join 20,000 troops in Washington who are securing the U.S. Capitol as Congress moves to oust President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office.
National Guard troops patrolled inside and outside on Wednesday while the the House of Representatives met to impeach Trump for his role in the deadly assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6.
For the first time since they went on 24-hour watch last week, National Guard troops had weapons in hand Wednesday. Riot shields and gas masks were piled in the hallways.
Approximately 50 soldiers and airmen from New Hampshire are headed to Washington to join them.
“Ensuring a peaceful and orderly transition of power is of paramount importance to our nation,” Sununu said in a statement. “With this authorization, the men and women of our New Hampshire National Guard will be deployed to our Nation’s Capital to protect and defend democracy.”
The New Hampshire contingent includes soldiers from the 160th Engineer Detachment and airmen from the 157th Security Forces Squadron. They will fly to Washington on a KC-46 tanker plane based at Pease Air National Guard Base in Newington.
The New Hampshire Air National Guard also is providing three more KC-46s to transport military personnel and equipment from other states to the nation’s capital.
In Washington on Wednesday, a seven-foot-high fence, metal barriers and other security measures were visible around the Capitol on Wednesday, with troops also protecting the nearby congressional office buildings.
“The attack on the Capitol was a violent insurrection that resulted in the spilling of American blood,” said U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. “And that’s why extraordinary security measures have been taken.
“Officers were brutally beaten. The attackers wanted to assassinate Nancy Pelosi, hang Mike Pence and hunt down sitting members of Congress. That’s insurrection. That’s sedition. That’s lawlessness. That’s terror,” Jeffries said.
National Guard troops frequently have been used by states to help law enforcement forces quell protests over the past year. However, the decision to arm them underscores fears about the threat of more violence in the days leading up to Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
Officials have said the troops continue to operate in a support role for local law enforcement.
“The Capitol has responded in an appropriate way to meet the nature of the severe security threat that is being posed by domestic terrorists and white supremacists,” Jeffries said.
Jeffries said the National Guard already was part of security plans for the inauguration, but in response to last week’s violence, their numbers have been increased.