Federal troops in Washington, D.C. considered using high-tech weapons, including sound cannons and so-called “heat rays,” against protesters outside the White House in June, according to sworn testimony from a whistleblower with the D.C. National Guard. The new evidence was obtained by both NPR and the Washington Post late Wednesday, and it’s just one more sign the Trump regime is prepared to escalate violence in U.S. cities during the lead-up to November’s presidential election.
The heat ray that federal officers requested, officially known as an Active Denial System, uses an invisible microwave beam to burn human skin from a distance, causing immense pain. ADS weapons were first deployed by U.S. troops in Iraq following the American invasion in 2003, but it’s unclear whether heat rays have ever been used against people on U.S. soil.
The whistleblower, Major Adam DeMarco, provided testimony to the U.S House Committee on Natural Resources, which has been conducting an investigation into the use of federal troops to disperse protesters in Lafayette Square on June 1. President Donald Trump left the White House on that day to appear in front of a church across the street where he held up a bible. Federal forces ultimately used tear gas and overwhelming physical violence against the protesters and members of the media, clearing the area so Trump could stage his photo-op.
Major DeMarco served as a liaison between the National Guard and U.S. Park Police on the scene in front of the White House, and was copied on emails where the lead military police officer at the Department of Defense for the National Capital Region requested sound weapons like a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) and heat rays.
According to one email quoted by DeMarco, the weapons were described as being able to, “provide our troops a capacity they currently do not have, the ability to reach out and engage potential adversaries at distances well beyond small arms range, and in a safe, effective, and nonlethal manner.”
DeMarco’s written testimony says that he replied, “the D.C. National Guard was not in possession of either an LRAD or an ADS.” Aside from being used as a sound weapon to create an ear-shattering noise, an LRAD can also be used as a public address system, but there was not one on site that day, according to DeMarco.
An unnamed spokesperson at the Department of Defense reportedly told NPR that the email asking about heat rays was routine and was only used to get an accurate picture of inventory available in the area. But downplaying such a request as routine is perhaps the scariest part.
The U.S. government first started development of directed-energy weapons in the 1960s under a project called Eighth Card, spearheaded by ARPA (now known as DARPA) to build laser capabilities. The project yielded its first success at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico on November 13, 1973 when ARPA successfully torched a Northrop MQM-33B drone during a test. The Pentagon has acknowledged using directed-energy weapons in both Iraq and Afghanistan but, again, it’s unclear if they’ve ever been used domestically against American targets.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security explored the idea of using a heat ray against immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border just a couple of weeks before the 2018 midterm elections, according to a report by the New York Times last month. The head of DHS at the time, Kirstjen Nielsen, apparently shot down the idea, though perpetrated countless other crimes against humanity during her tenure at the agency, including psychological torture against children who were taken from their parents and guardians. Nielsen consistently denied to Congress that a family separation policy even existed—a blatant lie.
Another point of contention being investigated regarding the June 1 attack against peaceful protesters is whether troops gave any kind of verbal warning before they started assaulting people. According to DeMarco, he was roughly 30 yards away from the officer who was supposedly giving protesters the order to disperse and wrote in his testimony that the warnings “were barely audible and I was only able to discern several words.”
All of this news comes at a time when Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, is reportedly telling federal prosecutors to pursue sedition charges against protesters. Barr insists that violent protesters are trying to overthrow the government and that anyone who “impedes or obstructs a law-enforcement officer responding to unrest,” should face serious charges, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Barr has also explored bringing federal charges against the Democratic mayor of Seattle, Jenny Durkan, for “allowing” citizens to create a so-called autonomous zone in the city that was eventually dismantled, according to a new report from the New York Times. Jailing your political opponents is a serious escalation of authoritarian tactics, to say the least.
The idea of U.S. democracy is hanging by a thread, with too many examples to count. There are vigilante roadblocks in Oregon, federal troops in D.C. exploring heat ray weapons, and some extremely fascist rhetoric being spouted by the Attorney General. President Trump has even described the extrajudicial killing of a Portland shooting suspect, Michael Reinoehl, as “retribution” for killing a Trump supporter. That last remark becomes even more troubling as details emerge about that case: federal agents didn’t try to take Reinoehl alive, according to an eyewitness, and just started shooting immediately upon arriving at his residence. Trump has previously encouraged police to shoot “thugs” and “looters” on sight.
The U.S. has been heading down this road ever since Trump was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017, while “reasonable” pundits kept telling everyone not to panic. But it’s probably time to panic. Or, at the very least, vote the bums out. Even if President Trump doesn’t accept the final results, as he now proactively calls the November election “rigged,” it’s important to at least raise your hand and say you’re against fascism. Because that’s what this is. This is fascism.