‘Establish Aerial Dominance’: Army Report Finds Pilots ‘Modified’ Orders to Fly Low Over DC Protests


As the Black Lives Matter protests swelled last summer into the largest conflagration seen in the US in half a century, US President Donald Trump fought with Pentagon leaders about declaring martial law. While they have claimed to have ordered the National Guard to be harsher, tracing who gave them orders to do what has remained a challenge.

A probe of events in Washington, DC, during the protests of May and June 2020 passes the blame for low-level helicopter flights over demonstrators off onto lower commanders and chopper pilots themselves, who “modified” their vaguely-worded orders.

In the hours that followed, police and soldiers used a number of controversial tactics to enforce the curfew, but that which attracted the most attention was the “buzzing” of protesters by several National Guard helicopters – a tactic used by US troops abroad to intimidate crowds and enemy combatants during their occupation wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

​The report notes that five National Guard helicopters hit the skies that night, four of which were medevac vehicles, which wasn’t against the law but was against procedure. Three were UH-60 Black Hawks and two were UH-72 Lakotas. One Lakota “hovered under 100 feet” over a group of protesters near Judiciary Square to “provide that constant obvious presence as hopefully a deterrent,” as one guardsman told the investigators. However, a Washington Post reporter managed to squeeze a more precise answer…

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