ACLU-DC Files Complaint on Behalf of Demonstrator Injured By Military Helicopters Used to Intimidate Racial Justice Demonstrators

October 14, 2020 11:30 am

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WASHINGTON – The ACLU of the District of Columbia today filed a complaint under the Federal Tort Claims Act on behalf of Dzhuliya Dashtamirova, a 23-year old woman who suffered injuries caused by low-flying military helicopters that menaced protestors demonstrating against the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor on the evening of June 1, 2020 in downtown D.C.

Starting at approximately 9:50 PM, just hours after the president used tear gas to clear demonstrators from Lafayette Square for a photo op (the subject of a separate ACLU-DC lawsuit), military helicopters operated by the D.C. National Guard arrived at Gallery Place, hovering above a crowd of protestors, and then following them to Judiciary Square, where one helicopter descended as low as a few stories above the ground. The protestors crouched down and protected their heads as the hurricane-force winds kicked up dirt and glass from broken windows, tore signs from buildings, and ripped branches off trees.

Watch a video depicting the helicopters threatening protestors here:

“My eyes and skin were burning from all the debris flying everywhere. I couldn’t see anything,” said Dashtamirova. “I was afraid that troops would storm out of the helicopter and tear gas me or shoot me with rubber bullets. It was terrifying and felt like a warning to people who believe in racial justice that if we say things the government doesn’t like, it will use the full force of the military against us.”

The low-flying maneuver, known as a “rotor-wash” or “thumping,” is cited in the Department of the Army Civil Disturbances manual as an intimidation tactic intended to “exploit the psychological effects of a show of force,” and has been deployed in conflict zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan to disperse insurgents.

The helicopters were part of a large deployment of approximately 3,800 National Guard troops from as far away as Utah on the streets of D.C. that evening to augment the D.C. National Guard’s presence around the White House. State governors command their state national guards, but without statehood, the D.C. National Guard is under the command of the president.

“This was a dangerous, unprecedented show of force against American civilians exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Michael Perloff, Attorney, ACLU-DC. “The streets of D.C. are not a war zone, and protestors are not the enemy. Our government should stop treating them that way.”

Today’s complaint asserts the National Guard’s actions that evening was an assault on Dashtamirova; the filing seeks damages for injuries she suffered that evening and psychological injuries that she continues to suffer to this day.

The complaint can be found here:

This press release can be found here:

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