Military Police Considered Using Heat Ray on D.C. Protesters, Whistle-Blower Says

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  • Military Police Considered Using Heat Ray on D.C. Protesters, Whistle-Blower Says

Top administration officials have defended the response to the protests, arguing that law enforcement officers in the square in the days leading up to the clash had been met with violence from bad actors. Testifying before Congress in July, Gregory T. Monahan, the Park Police’s acting chief, said that his officers acted with “tremendous restraint.”

Top Republican lawmakers, as well as Attorney General William P. Barr, have previously sought to discredit Major DeMarco, noting that he ran as a Democratic House candidate in 2018.

Major DeMarco, who also testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources as part of the panel’s investigation into the clash, offered a starkly different picture, telling lawmakers that the police used “excessive” force on protesters.

The heat ray that officials had sought was developed with the intent of repelling individuals without injury. But military news releases describe the technology as causing an “unbearable heating sensation,” and a system deployed to Afghanistan with the Air Force in 2010 ultimately was never used and was withdrawn, in part, some speculated, because of public opposition.

In a meeting days before the 2018 midterm elections, Customs and Border Protection officials suggested using the device on migrants at the southwestern border, but the idea shocked attendees, and Kirstjen Nielsen, then the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, angrily dismissed the idea outright.

Major DeMarco, in his written testimony, also told lawmakers that military officials had sought out powerful sound cannons known as Long Range Acoustic Devices, which can be used to loudly issue commands to crowds but can also serve as a deterrent. A federal judge in New York ruled in 2017 that the sound the cannons emit could be considered a form of force, after the police used such a device to emit a series of piercing beeps directed at protesters who later said they had developed ringing in their ears and dizziness because of the noise.

Zolan Kanno-Youngs and John Ismay contributed reporting.

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