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Pritzker sending 500 National Guard troops to D.C. after U.S. Homeland Security warns of ‘heightened threat environment’

The deployment of more troops to D.C. follows a violent siege of the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump earlier this month, leaving five dead and others injured.

Members of the Illinois National Guard and the Capitol Police get setup in front of a road closure at the Illinois State Capitol earlier this month.
Members of the Illinois National Guard and the Capitol Police get setup in front of a road closure at the Illinois State Capitol earlier this month.
Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP file

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday he’s activated 500 Illinois National Guard members for a “security mission” in Washington, D.C., that will last until mid-March.

“The U.S. Department of Defense has asked Illinois to assist federal and local agencies in this continued effort, and Major General Neely and I are ready to ensure that the state of Illinois continues its proud legacy of protecting our democracy,” Pritzker said in a statement.

“Ultimately, we must root out the dark forces of racism, white supremacy and disinformation that have created this moment, but until we do that, our extraordinary troops will deploy with honor.”

Major General Richard R. Neely is the state’s adjutant general of the State of Illinois, the member of Pritzker’s cabinet responsible for carrying out National Guard activities.

The state’s National Guard soldiers will be in Washington, D.C., by the start of next week along with a small group of Illinois Air and National Guard airmen, a release on the troop activation said. The group is expected to remain on duty in the nation’s capital until mid-March.

Members who were deployed for the presidential inauguration have since returned to Illinois — 50 members from that security mission have volunteered to return.

The deployment of more troops to the nation’s capital follows a violent siege of the Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, leaving five dead and others injured.

Here in Illinois, Pritzker earlier this month activated 250 Illinois National Guard members to protect the state Capitol based on FBI warnings about planned armed protests in state capitals across the nation in the days leading up to the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

No violent protests materialized in Springfield, and the Guard troops packed up and went home late last week.

On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a terrorism advisory system bulletin due to a “heightened threat environment across the United States” that the department believes “will persist in the weeks following the successful Presidential Inauguration.”

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin reads in part.