Governor Charlie Baker on Thursday approved an order to send up to 500 National Guard troops to Washington D.C., to provide security around President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, following last week’s deadly violence at the US Capitol, officials said.
The state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security confirmed the deployment in a statement.
Baker, the statement said, “approved an order that will activate up to 500 Massachusetts National Guard personnel for deployment to Washington, D.C., where they will support the District of Columbia National Guard during next week’s inaugural activities.”
The troops are expected to head to the Beltway in the coming days, according to the statement, which said the Guard will be activated within Massachusetts too.
“Out of an abundance of caution and in the wake of the violence at the nation’s capital, Governor Baker signed an additional order activating up to 500 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to support state and local law enforcement within the Commonwealth,” the statement said.
The order, officials said, makes the Guard “available in the event that municipal leaders require assistance to maintain public safety while protecting the exercise of First Amendment rights.” The personnel are deployed within the state only at the request of the communities seeking support, according to the statement.
Maine and New Hampshire have also confirmed Guard deployments to D.C.
As many as 200 Maine National Guard soldiers are going, officials say, while New Hampshire will be sending about 50.
“Ensuring a peaceful and orderly transition of power is of paramount importance to our nation,” said New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu 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 NHNG is among the best of the best – and I join the people of New Hampshire in praying for them as they take on this critical mission.”
The statement from Sununu’s office said the New Hampshire Air National Guard is also providing three KC-46 refuelers to transport military personnel and equipment from other states to Washington.
Baker, speaking during an earlier briefing on COVID-19 relief for small businesses, had briefly addressed the Guard deployment, as well as the polarized state of American politics underpinning the violence.
“I have always believed that there is far more common ground than many people in public life recognize or appreciate,” Baker said. “And that may be just because my dad is a Republican and my mom was a Democrat. But part of the way you create legislation, part of the way you build community is by recognizing and understanding that there’s more than one way to think about an issue and more than one way to deal with it.”
He also offered advice for his fellow Republicans.
“For Republicans, whether at the local level, or the state level, or the federal level ... my advice would be the same,” Baker said. “We have a point of view about the importance of economic development, about the importance of community building, about the importance of being fiscally responsible and disciplined. But fundamentally, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, or an independent or whatever you might be, this is a team sport,” founded on compromise.
On the COVID relief front, Baker said 1,595 small businesses on Wednesday received grants totaling $78.6 million through the Mass. Growth Capital Corporation’s business grant program, the third round of grants distributed since Dec. 21 to help small businesses hit hard by the pandemic pay utilities, staff, and myriad of other expenses.
The briefing was held at the restaurant of one such grant recipient, Ristorante Saraceno, whose owner, Frank Pezzano told reporters the money will be a boon for his family business.
“It’s going to help me very much,” Pezzano said “Because another couple of months, it’s all I can stand for it. And this is going to be a big help. Big help. After 35 years, you know? You see everything going away, you know? ... This came just in time.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.