National Guard investigating helicopter use on D.C. protesters

National Guard investigating helicopter use on D.C. protesters

The commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard has ordered an investigation into the use of helicopters flying low over protesters on Monday, the branch announced.

The probe is in response to reports and videos of National Guard helicopters hovering over crowds, blowing dust and falling branches. One Army helicopter reportedly snapped a tree that nearly hit several people during a pass over protesters.

The Guard said Wednesday that it is looking into the use of a medical evacuation helicopter as part of its response to civil unrest in the nation’s capital.

“I hold all members of the District of Columbia National Guard to the highest of standards,” Maj. Gen. William Walker, DCNG commanding general, said in a statement.

President Donald Trump activated the nearly 1,300 D.C. National Guardsmen on Monday to help local law enforcement respond to the protests, and on Tuesday governors sent an additional 1,500 Guardsmen from other states.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, stressed the difficult and delicate mission the Guard faces in helping tamp down the protests, noting that the Guard members “live and work and are from these communities.

“The civil unrest mission is one of the most difficult and dangerous missions that we do here in our domestic portfolio,” Lengyel said. “Generally, this mission is an uncomfortable mission. They don’t like doing it.”

In addition to the National Guardsmen and local police, Defense Secretary Mark Esper moved roughly 1,600 active-duty Army troops into the National Capitol Region from infantry and military police units from Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Drum, N.Y.

The units are on “heightened alert status” but have not yet been deployed in support of civil authorities, according to Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman.

As of midday Tuesday, governors in 23 states and the District of Columbia have activated more than 20,400 National Guard members to assist state and local law enforcement in dealing with the protests. This is in addition to the 42,000 Guardsmen in all 50 states, three territories and D.C. who are supporting the Covid-19 response.

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