Hundreds of National Guard members from New England have been deployed to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont have said they are sending Guard members in the wake of the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol last week. Rhode Island has said it is not sending any of its soldiers.
The head of the National Guard said at least 10,000 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 five nearby states.
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The increase in requests for Guard members this week comes as officials brace for more, possibly violent protests surrounding Biden's inauguration.
Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters he has 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.
In Massachusetts, about 80 National Guard personnel from the 182nd Infantry Regiment, based at the armory on Main Street in Melrose, began their final preparations ahead of their trip to Washington on Saturday morning.
They are part of about 500 Guard members from Massachusetts who will depart for D.C. this weekend, with the mission to serve and protect lawmakers and the nation's Capitol during Biden's inauguration.
Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark says she knows just how important it is to have the extra support on hand.
"Unfortunately having been in Washington when the Capitol was attacked, very aware of how critical it is that we have the National Guard there," Clark said Saturday.
After the deadly attack and a noticeably sparse security presence, lawmakers and law enforcement officials are not taking any chances leading up to Jan. 20. Something, Rep. Clark says they can't afford not to do.
"I fear for the lives of my colleagues and I fear for the continuation of our democracy," she said.
"If you asked me a month ago whether or not they would be insurrection at the Capitol I’d say that’s a bad novel," said Major General Gary Keefe. "They’ve mobilized nearly 26,000 guardsmen to go to Washington, D.C. That’s the size of a core in the United States Army."
Despite investigations into the questionable conduct of members of a number of law enforcement agencies during the siege at the Capitol, officials say these men and women deploying to D.C. understand their solemn duty.
"We are sending our friends and neighbors down to Washington, D.C., to ensure what we all used to take for granted: a peaceful transfer of power," Melrose Mayor Paul Brodeur said.
Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker said that Massachusetts was expected to send "a few hundred" of its National Guard members to D.C. for the inauguration. Baker also said Massachusetts could decline the request if it felt it needed the Guard members here at home, but he said the request was for "an eminently manageable number" so he didn't think that would be necessary.
"We've had -- and I would imagine this is true for many states -- we have had an ask from Washington to support a fairly significant request for guard personnel in our nation's capital and we're currently processing that," the governor said Wednesday when asked about the possibility of violence locally in the days leading up to Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.
Massachusetts State police have said they've received no specific threats at the State House or any other public venues after the FBI sent an alert to law enforcement agencies warning of calls for "peaceful armed protest" planned at all 50 states' capitols.
Additionally, a representative of the FBI's Boston office told NBC News on Monday that it “is not in possession of any intelligence indicating any planned, armed protests at the four state capitals in our area of responsibility. (ME, MA, NH, and RI) from January 17-20, 2021.”
In New Hampshire, approximately 50 soldiers and airmen were at Pease Air National Guard Base on Saturday morning, preparing to deploy after Gov. Chris Sununu approved the request for support in Washington earlier in the week.
"Ensuring a peaceful and orderly transition of power is of paramount importance to our nation," Sununu said in a statement Wednesday. "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 Massachusetts and New Hampshire National Guard members will join National Guard troops from Connecticut and several other states that are being deployed for the inauguration in the wake of last week's riot at the U.S. Capitol.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday evening he's authorizing the deployment of an additional 200 members of the Connecticut National Guard to help with security efforts at the presidential inauguration.
Earlier in the week, the Democrat authorized sending an initial 100 Connecticut guard members, including military police and two patrol explosive-detection dog teams.
More than 100 Connecticut Guardsmen departed for Washington on Saturday.
Both deployments were made at the request of U.S. National Guard leadership. Connecticut is also providing equipment and supplies, including ambulances.
Lamont said previously that the state's Air Guard has also placed C-130H aircraft and crews on alert status. The planes are capable of moving personnel around the country, if necessary.
"The peaceful transfer of power is a central tenet of American democracy, and Connecticut stands ready to aid in the protection of our country,'' Lamont said in a statement.
In Vermont on Saturday, National Guard soldiers from 1-172 Cavalry Regiment and 172nd Public Affairs Detachment, were receiving briefings in preparation for their departure to Washington.
And in Maine, as many as 200 soldiers are going to assist in the presidential inauguration, state officials said. The decision, authorized by Gov. Janet Mills, is in response to the National Guard Bureau’s request for extra help.
“The National Guard has been supporting inaugural activities since the founding of our country, and Maine is no exception,” said Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham, Maine’s adjutant general. “We’re proud to join our brothers and sisters from across the country to support the peaceful transition of power and ensure the safety and well-being of our fellow Americans.”
Maine is providing 175 to 200 soldiers. The guardsmen and -women are expected in D.C. this weekend, arriving on Air National Guard planes flown out of Bangor.
“It’s sending a signal to the folks that may have other intentions that we’re not going to put up with it,” Maine National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Douglas Farnham said.