The fallout from the Trump administration’s violent clearing of demonstrators in Lafayette Square in order to make way for the president to take a photo with a mishandled Bible continues to get worse. According to sworn testimony from a D.C. National Guard major shared with the Washington Post, federal officials began stockpiling ammunition to potentially use against demonstrators on June 1, including sound cannons and “heat ray” devices that make people feel like their skin is burning.
Major Adam D. DeMarco, the senior-most D.C. National Guard officer on the ground that day, provided his account to the House Natural Resources Committee earlier this summer. In his depiction of the crackdown on protesters, he claimed that federal officials had transferred close to 7,000 rounds of ammunition to the D.C. Armory during the first week of protests following the police killing of George Floyd. Other, less conventional weapons were considered as well:
Just before noon on June 1, the Defense Department’s top military police officer in the Washington region sent an email to officers in the D.C. National Guard. It asked whether the unit had a Long Range Acoustic Device, also known as an LRAD, or a microwave-like weapon called the Active Denial System, which was designed by the military to make people feel like their skin is burning when in range of its invisible rays.
The technology, also called a “heat ray,” was developed to disperse large crowds in the early 2000s but was shelved amid concerns about its effectiveness, safety, and the ethics of using it on human beings.
… In the email, on which DeMarco was copied, the lead military police officer in the National Capital Region wrote the ADS device “can 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.”
The email continued: “The ADS can immediately compel an individual to cease threatening behavior or depart through application of a directed energy beam that provides a sensation of intense heat on the surface of the skin. The effect is overwhelming, causing an immediate repel response by the targeted individual.”
While the Defense official allegedly considered the heat ray for use on American citizens, it appears that one would need to go a war zone for a more humane precedent. During the early years of the Iraq War, Pentagon officials were hesitant to deploy the microwave weapon because they feared it “could be misconstrued as a torture machine,” according to the Associated Press. In 2018, Customs and Border Protection officials also reportedly floated using the Active Denial System on migrants crossing the border, an idea that was shot down by former Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Whistle-blowers have revealed some especially cruel information regarding the Trump administration this week. In addition to the consideration of using a heat ray on unarmed citizens, a whistle-blower alleges that there were “mass hysterectomies” at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Georgia, where detainees were subjected to the procedure without being given complete information about what was happening.