According to a new whistleblower revelation, in early June, armed officials sought to use much more than just tear gas and rubber bullets on protestors in Washington, D.C. In a testimony from D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco, he alleges that as nationwide anti-racism protests began gaining traction following the police killing of George Floyd, federal officials sought a military-grade heat weapon to use against demonstrators. DeMarco testified in written responses to the House Committee on Natural Resources that military police asked the National Guard if they had an Active Denial System (ADS), purportedly for use against racial justice protestors.
His testimony, which is part of a congressional investigation into police use of force against activists, has began to confirm suspicions of potential misconduct among federal officers during protests. According to DeMarco’s report, along with the events that played out in real time, at around 11:30 in the morning on June 1 — hours before President Donald Trump would deploy federal police officers to violently disperse a crowd of protestors at a nearby park — DeMarco said he was copied on an email sent to the D.C. National Guard.
The head military police officer in the D.C. region was looking for a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), a sonic weapon that can cause ear damage, headaches, and vertigo; or an ADS, a military weapon that can cause people to feel like their skin is on fire. The heat ray device was developed in the early 2000s as a crowd dispersal device, but was never deployed in war zones.
Dozens of reporters who have tried the weapon said the pain was “intolerable,” The Washington Post reports. “It felt as if I had opened a furnace with my face too close and been hit by a wall of scorching heat,” Philip Sherwell wrote for the Sunday Telegraph in 2007.
With these ethical dilemmas in mind, federal authorities still sought to use the “microwave weapon” — as some have described it — on protestors, after days of fiery street demonstrations that included some property damage.
Protestors were met with police force on June 1, as officers deployed tear gas and stun grenades, while also attacking activists and journalists with police shields and batons. The federal officers were sent to clear Lafayette Square, where protestors had gathered, so that President Donald Trump could take a few photographs with a Bible across the street outside St. John’s Episcopal Church.
At the time, the Trump administration argued the police response was warranted, claiming protestors were using fireworks and throwing water bottles. U.S. Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan testified that protesters were given several warnings over an LRAD device to disperse, but DeMarco says that never happened. Instead, DeMarco testified the police had used a megaphone, through which the dispersal warnings were “barely audible.” DeMarco’s earlier testimony further contradicted the president.
“The events I witnessed at Lafayette Square on the evening of June 1 were deeply disturbing to me, and to fellow National Guardsmen,” DeMarco testified in July. “Having served in a combat zone, and understanding how to assess threat environments, at no time did I feel threatened by the protestors or assess them to be violent.”
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