A military whistleblower has said federal officials sought to use some controversial crowd control devices, including a so-called heat ray, to disperse protesters outside the White House in June.
In written responses to questions from a House committee, the national guard major Adam DeMarco said the defence department’s lead military police officer for the national capital region sent an email asking if the Washington DC national guard possessed a long-range acoustic device used to transmit loud noises or an Active Denial System (ADS), the heat ray.
DeMarco said he responded that the guard was not in possession of either device. National Public Radio and the Washington Post first reported DeMarco’s testimony.
Use of either the acoustic device or the ADS would have been a significant escalation of crowd control for the guard, particularly since the defence officials ordered that troops not be armed when they went into the area. Law enforcement personnel were armed.
Athough active-duty military troops were sent to the region, they remained at bases outside the district in case they were needed.
The ADS was developed by the military nearly two decades ago and was unveiled to the public around 2007. It is not clear if it has ever been used in combat, although reports suggest it has been deployed.
The system, which emits a directed beam of energy that causes a burning sensation, was considered a non-lethal way to control crowds, particularly when it may be difficult to tell the enemy from innocent civilians in war zones.
Use of the device appeared to stall amid questions about whether it actually caused more serious injuries or burns than initially thought.
The long-range acoustic device, also called a sound cannon, sends out loud messages or sounds and has been used by law enforcement to disperse crowds.
The US military has, in recent years, ordered the cannon for the navy’s Military Sealift Command to be used by ships to hail or warn other vessels.
DeMarco testified in late July before the House natural resources committee, which is investigating the use of force against crowds in Lafayette Square. His remarks on the crowd-control devices came in response to follow-up questions from the committee.
DeMarco’s lawyer sent his answers to the committee on 28 August; NPR posted the document online Wednesday.
The Trump administration has claimed vicious attacks by protesters led federal forces to turn on what appeared to be a largely peaceful crowd on 1 June in the square in front of the White House.
Law enforcement and security officers that night clubbed and punched demonstrators and set mounted officers and chemical agents against them in one of the most controversial confrontations at the height of this year’s nationwide protests over the killing of black people at the hands of police.
The forceful clearing of Lafayette Square, long one of the country’s most prominent venues for demonstrations, came minutes before Donald Trump arrived in the area, en route to stage a photo event in front of a historic church nearby.
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