DC National Guard asks for investigation into use of helicopter to target protesters
The District of Columbia National Guard has asked for an investigation into the use of a helicopter in the city to disperse crowds protesting the killing of George Floyd, officials told The Hill.
"Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, District of Columbia National Guard Commanding General, has directed an investigation into a June 1 low-flying maneuver conducted by one of our rotary aviation assets," Air Force Lt. Col. Brooke Davis, spokeswoman for the D.C. National Guard, told The Hill in a statement.
"Our highest priority is the safety of our Citizen Soldiers and Airmen who support civil authorities as they perform their duties,” the spokeswoman continued. “This is our home, and we are dedicated to the safety and security of our fellow citizens of the District and their right to safely and peacefully protest."
As police enforced a 7 p.m. curfew on Monday night, multiple helicopters were deployed to disperse protesters. Footage on social media showed an unarmed Lakota medevac craft with Red Cross markings using its rotor wash — or the downward rush of air from rotors — to disperse crowds.
The military is using black hawk helicopters to dispersd in DC right now flying lower than building height of 12 stories pic.twitter.com/RMa9LIh8t4— Anna (@anabananaaaah) June 2, 2020ADVERTISEMENT
“This was a foolish move,” Geoffrey Corn, a former Army lawyer and professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, told The Washington Post. “The symbolic significance of the Red Cross is pervasive: It denotes a ‘noncombatant’ function of the armed forces.”
Kyleanne Hunter, a former Marine Corps pilot, agreed that the use of the helicopter was an escalation and that it flew far too low to serve any useful surveillance purpose.
“You add more military equipment, you get more military tactics,” she told the Post. “It’s to provoke and incite rather to protect and serve.”
Guard members were also among those who dispersed crowds from Lafayette Square across from the White House on Monday night, demonstrations that onlookers described as largely peaceful.
Those protesters were pushed away from the area about 20 minutes before the city's curfew took effect. Officials have insisted that tear gas was not deployed, but rather pepper balls and smoke canisters.