Defense officials explored the use of “heat rays” and other extreme crowd-control tools hours before violently clearing out protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., this June, a whistleblower told The Washington Post.
The federal forces had allegedly hoarded ammunition and searched for a military device, known as an Active Denial System, that emits invisible rays to make those nearby feel like their skin is burning.
Officers ultimately deployed tear gas, stun grenades and smoke bombs as they used physical force to clear the crowds from the square just north of the White House on June 1, according to the whistleblower, Army National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco, who was at the scene.
President Trump then walked through the cleared-out park to briefly pose for photos outside St. John’s Church while holding a Bible.
DeMarco’s account, as the senior-most member of the DC National Guard on hand, was reportedly submitted as testimony to Congress as part of lawmakers’ investigation into police and military’s response to D.C. protests, according to The Washington Post, with which the testimony was shared.
The major’s insight into the planning just before the incident reportedly challenges the Trump administration’s claims that the clash was in reaction to protesters who had grown violent. It also reportedly disputes claims that the protesters were given ample notice to clear the area before force was used.
Trump earlier that day had railed against local leaders for allowing protests against the police killing of George Floyd to continue across the country.
“We’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before,” he told governors and other local leaders during a morning conference call, according to The Washington Post, “but you got to have total domination, and then you have to put them in jail.”
The Defense Department, U.S. Army and D.C. National Guard did not respond to questions from the paper relating to the testimony. Though a Defense Department official speaking to The Washington Post framed inquiries about crowd control devices as standard inventory checks.