As another night of protests kicked off in the nation’s capital on Tuesday, the D.C. National Guard confirmed it would be investigating the actions of its rotary aircraft after an unarmed Lakota helicopter was recorded hovering over protestors in an apparent attempt to disperse the crowd.
After complaints were raised over the alleged use of a helicopter with Red Cross markings to disperse protesters with its rotor wash, the D.C. National Guard commander, Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, directed an investigation into the incident.
“I hold all members of the District of Columbia National Guard to the highest of standards. We live and work in the District, and we are dedicated to the service of our nation,” said Walker in a statement.
The inquiry came as Guardsmen stood post Tuesday at various corners near Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and in lines in front of the White House for a fifth night of protests. Demonstrations were mostly peaceful but tensions spiked early in the morning with bottles being thrown across the fence and law enforcement briefly shooting pepper spray at some protesters who still lingered.
Thousands of demonstrators have been gathering in cities across the nation following the death of George Floyd, a black man who prosecutors say was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who had his knee on Floyd’s throat.
“D.C. had no problems last night. Many arrests. Great job done by all. Overwhelming force. Domination,” President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning.
Several blocks north of the president’s residence, guardsmen struck a different tone on Tuesday afternoon. Two airmen assisting local law enforcement there said the protests have been well-organized and largely peaceful.
“I’ve heard different stories from different people,” said one of the airmen, a tech sergeant. “But for us it’s been peaceful.”
Both of the guardsmen had worked domestic operations in D.C. before, they said. But they had never been called up for something on the scale of the current protests.
“It’s actually been kind of nice to see,” the other airman, a master sergeant, added. “They even had people handing out waters to everyone there and then behind the protest, they actually had people with trash bags picking up the bottles.”
Two D.C. National Guard first lieutenants characterized their job as “blocking traffic so the protests can happen safely.”
In front of the White House, a line of military troops in riot gear and shields formed a bulwark alongside police. They advanced briefly toward a fence established along H Street in front of Lafayette Square and were periodically pelted with water bottles by some in the crowd opposite them.
Many of the protesters chastised those who threw bottles, though, attempting to keep the large assembly in line and instead focusing their ire on the administration in the White House where the lights had already dimmed for the evening.
Over the weekend, D.C. residents saw damage left by some looters and rioters. Vandalized property and graffiti was also still visible on many of the buildings near the White House on Tuesday night.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer