New hotel found for Utah National Guard troops in DC after billing dispute

The roughly 200 troops have been supporting law enforcement in D.C.

June 5, 2020, 3:30 PM

Utah National Guard troops operating in the nation's capital have a new hotel Friday, after a billing dispute led to their eviction.

The approximately 200 members of the Utah National Guard have been supporting law enforcement in Washington, D.C., as protests over police brutality and racial inequality erupted after the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

On Thursday, D.C. Democratic Mayor Muriel Bowser formally requested President Donald Trump to withdraw "all extraordinary federal law enforcement and military presence" from the city, to include out-of-state National Guard troops.

Shortly after, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, tweeted that Bowser was removing Guard troops -- including Utah's -- from D.C. hotels, calling the move "unacceptable" and saying they were "being kicked to the curb by an ungrateful mayor."

In a statement on Friday, Lee said the Utah troops had finished their shift in D.C. at 3 a.m. EDT on Friday and were "forced out of their hotel" by 11 a.m. EDT with another shift scheduled for that evening.

The Utah National Guard confirmed that they were informed on Thursday night "that our service members would be relocated from their hotels" and that "their housing situation has not been resolved." But hours later on Friday, an updated statement said the Utah Guard was informed by the D.C. National Guard that a different hotel had been identified, and the issue "resolved."

"The soldiers will relocated to the new hotel today," the statement said, without providing details about what had occurred.

The issue seems to have stemmed from who was footing the hotel bill.

Responding to Lee on Friday, Bowser said during a press conference that "D.C. residents cannot pay" for the Guard's rooms.

"So either the Department of the Army or their home states will have to care of their arrangements," she said.

A spokesperson for the National Guard Bureau said that some Guard personnel were "quartering in hotel accommodations which had preexisting contractual agreements" with the city.

"Out of respect for existing agreements those facilities have with the city government, those service members have been relocated," Master Sgt. Michael Houk told ABC News.

PHOTO: A protester waves a D.C. flag with Black Lives Matter spray painted on it next to a DC National Guard Humvee as people march through the streets during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, June 2, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
A protester waves a D.C. flag with Black Lives Matter spray painted on it next to a DC National Guard Humvee as people march through the streets during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, June 2, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Later on Friday, Bowser told reporters that "at no time did we intend or certainly would we be able to affect evicting any Guardsman from any hotel," clarifying that the hotel rooms were reserved for COVID-19 responders and paid for by the city.

"So our message to the hotel was that if they are going to use the rooms that we reserved, then they are going to have to pay for them, and you have to refund us our money," she said.

It's unclear how many out-of-state Guard personnel operating in D.C. were affected.

In a tweet, Trump called Bowser "incompetent" after requesting to remove federal law enforcement and military troops from the city, accusing her of "fighting" with the National Guard and threatening to "bring in a different group of men and women" if the Guard wasn't treated "well."

The Utah Guard unit deployed to the nation's capital raised eyebrows earlier this week because the troops seen guarding the White House -- though unarmed -- are special operations soldiers from the 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne).

Controversy has erupted over the use of the U.S. military in responding to protests with several retired senior military officers criticizing the administration's threats to deploy active duty troops domestically. While several active duty units were moved and put on standby in case they were needed in D.C., none went into the city as protests remained mostly peaceful. And on Friday, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that those units were going home.

Instead, it's been the task of more than 41,000 Guard personnel across the country to assist state and local law enforcement. But some argued that putting soldiers from secretive commando units -- like this one from Utah -- into the fray may erode the public's trust in the military.

Guard members, as opposed to active duty service members, hold full-time civilian jobs while also serving part-time in the U.S. military.

On Wednesday, the Utah National Guard tweeted photos of its unit in D.C. cleaning graffiti and raking debris after a night of protests near the White House. The organization has also tried to educate the public on how to distinguish Guard troops from law enforcement.

ABC News' Luis Martinez and Lauren Lantry contributed to this report.

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