The Utah National Guard confirmed Friday that 200 service members are being kicked out of hotels in the nation’s capital as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser clashes with President Trump over the handling of the George Floyd protests in the city.
Bowser, who wants all non-D.C. troops out of the city, blamed the National Guard relocation on a budget issue and said the city will not pay for the accommodations — amid days of protests over racial injustice, some of which have been violent.
“Last night, we were informed that our service members would be relocated from their hotel rooms,” the Utah National Guard said in a statement Friday.
Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, pictured on the left, after kicking out Utah National Guard soldiers deployed to the nation’s capital as demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd, Thursday, June 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Maj. Jaime Thomas told Fox News they identified another hotel and will relocate Friday.
“It has been heartbreaking for our Utah National Guard service members to witness the pain, suffering, and frustration in our communities across the nation,” the National Guard added. “The Utah National Guard has been supporting civil authorities with our top priority of protecting lives as well as preserving property and critical infrastructure in our nation’s capital.”
The District of Columbia’s National Guard said it is working to resolve the matter after hundreds of soldiers had been staying at a Marriott hotel near downtown Washington since being activated on Monday.
On Friday, Bowser said the removals were over a budget issue, saying D.C. residents would not cover the hotel bills. “This is overbilling,” she said.
Pressed on the matter, the mayor said they did not “evict anybody from a private hotel” but said the city will not pay for National Guard housing. She said they have no desire to see soldiers on the street but said the armory or the home state of the National Guard should pay for their arrangements. “If they are going to use rooms we reserved, they have to pay for them,” she said.
“At no time did we intend or would we would be able to effect evicting any guardsman from any hotel,” Bowser added.
Bowser said Friday she hasn’t had a chance to talk to Lee.
In a new statement Friday afternoon, Lee said: “Evicting Utah National Guard personnel from their hotels after a late-night shift risking their lives to protect Washington is a shameful, petty, discrediting decision by Mayor Bowser.”
Lee, who has worked in all three branches of the federal government, said on Fox News he’s “never seen a situation like this.”
“I find this very strange,” Lee said. “They [the soldiers] came here at the request of their country and now, in the middle of it, in the middle of a deployment, in the middle of their fourth consecutive all-nighter, they’re being told they’re not welcome there. That is unpatriotic; that is unacceptable.”
The senator explained these young soldiers – with 10 hours notice – left their homes to protect the White House and other properties. He said many soldiers work overnight and will have to collect their belongings at 10 a.m. and find another place to stay.
President Trump slammed Bowser over the issue on Friday.
He tweeted: “The incompetent Mayor of Washington, D.C., @MayorBowser, who’s budget is totally out of control and is constantly coming back to us for “handouts”, is now fighting with the National Guard, who saved her from great embarrassment over the last number of nights. If she doesn’t treat these men and women well, then we’ll bring in a different group of men and women!”
Heavily armed federal officers in tactical gear have been on the district’s streets for days, after demonstrators set fires, broke store windows and stole items from the shelves and left police officers injured.
The Trump administration has made an effort to show the use of force in Washington. Hours before a 7 p.m. curfew on Tuesday, cars were being stopped at military checkpoints downtown, and a cavalry of armored military vehicles could be seen driving through the district.
Bowser said the administration had floated the idea of taking over the Metropolitan Police Department, a proposal she strongly rejected. She threatened to take legal action if the federal government attempted to do so.
Trump announced from the White House on Monday that if “a city or a state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
Fox Business’ Hillary Vaughn and Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and Edmund DeMarche contributed to this report.