Whistleblower testified officials tried to obtain a ‘heat ray’ to use against D.C. protesters

In sworn testimony, D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco told lawmakers that in the hours before law enforcement cleared out protesters at Lafayette Square on June 1, federal officials began to accumulate ammunition and crowd control technology that can make it feel like a person’s skin is on fire, The Washington Post reports.

DeMarco, who testified as a whistleblower, contradicted much of the Trump administration’s version of events. His testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee in July, which was collected as part of an investigation into the use of police force against protesters in D.C., was shared with the Post.

On June 1, ahead of the curfew in place for D.C. at the time, anti-racism and anti-police brutality protesters were pushed out of Lafayette Square, a park across the street from the White House. Tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber pellets were fired, and law enforcement use shields and batons to herd demonstrators away. Once they were moved out, President Trump walked over for a photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The Trump administration has alleged the protesters were violent, hurling rocks and water bottles at officers and shooting firecrackers. U.S. Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan said under oath that officers used a Long Range Acoustic Device to tell protesters they had to leave, as legally required. DeMarco testified that there was no Long Range Acoustic Device on the scene, and the crowd was told to leave via handheld megaphone.

Witnesses said they never heard calls to disperse, and DeMarco said he was 30 yards away from the megaphone and could barely hear the message. “From my observation, these demonstrators — our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” he said. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”

DeMarco was the most senior D.C. National Guard officer at Lafayette Square and served as a liaison between the National Guard and the U.S. Park Police. He also testified that he was copied on an email sent before noon on July 1 by the Defense Department’s top military police officer in the area. The officer asked if the D.C. National Guard had a Long Range Acoustic Device or an Active Denial System, also known as a “heat ray.”

This microwave-like weapon was developed by the military, and when the invisible rays hit a person, it feels like their skin is burning. It was made to disperse large crowds, but is not used, due to ethics and safety concerns. Federal police were unable to obtain the items. Read more about DeMarco’s testimony at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

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