Despite according to a prior New York Times report top Pentagon brass initially ordered that National Guard helicopters assist in dispersing protests and riots which overwhelmed streets outside the White House early this week, at least one helicopter pilot has been grounded pending an investigation over low-flying maneuvers.
The Black Hawk helicopter presence created a huge stir among activists nationwide, as footage went viral of the pilots using gusts from the helicopter blades to deter crowds.
The Pentagon had described the "show of force" tactic as a menacing "persistent presence" to dissuade the below throngs amid raging Black Lives Matter protests.
About 10 minutes later, here it goes again. pic.twitter.com/3yoxOAu0uw— Zolan Kanno-Youngs (@KannoYoungs) June 2, 2020
Reporters and demonstrators alleged that in some locations where the swooping maneuver was made store windows were broken by the severe downdraft along with tree limbs, which in at least one case reportedly hurt a bystander when branches struck the person.
Caught on film were US Army UH-72 Lakota helicopters, as well as UH-60 Black Hawks coming within as little as 100 feet over the crowds.
As The Hill describes Saturday:
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters that the helicopter crew was grounded pending results from an internal investigation, according to local CBS affiliate WUSA9. A Pentagon spokesman told the outlet that the move was standard procedure during such investigations.
The aircraft was one of two Army National Guard helicopters that hovered between 100 and 300 feet above the streets of the District on Monday night, according to an aircraft tracker. Gusts from their helicopter blades were aimed at dispersing crowds of protesters.
And further the D.C. National Guard commander, Maj. Gen. William Walker, had indicated in a prior statement that he'd "directed an immediate investigation into the June 1 incident."
"I hold all members of the District of Columbia National Guard to the highest of standards," Walker said. "We live and work in the District, and we are dedicated to the service of our nation."
In a disturbing show of force usually seen in war zones, military helicopters hovered over crowds of protesters in Washington, D.C. pic.twitter.com/K9g3n9Sz2s— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 6, 2020
No doubt, the pending investigation and grounding of the pilot is largely a political response, given not only the widespread condemnation of military armed forces being utilized for crowd and riot control on American streets, but at a moment the Pentagon and White House are increasingly at odds over the role of soldiers amid the nationwide unrest.
And given the controversy, we're unlikely to see low-flying helicopters during Saturday's protest, despite the prediction that they'll be the biggest yet on the capitol, and potentially most dangerous given the chaos of early this week.
It also suggests a broader trend of lower ranking police officers and soldiers potentially being thrown under the bus when the "orders" from their higher-ups come under media scrutiny.