Protester files suit for injuries caused by DC National Guard helicopter clearing tactic

A military helicopter flies low pushing a strong vertical down wash of air (rotor wash) onto the crowd during a protest over the death of George Floyd on June 1, 2020. – President Donald Trump vowed Monday to order a military crackdown on once-in-a-generation violent protests gripping the United States, saying he was sending thousands of troops onto the streets of the capital and threatening to deploy soldiers to states unable to regain control. Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT / AFP) (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)

When two National Guard pilots hovered low over a group of protestors in 2020, politicians criticized the move, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, who called it “wholly inappropriate.”

But a Baltimore woman claims the military tactic left her with lasting injuries, and she’s filing suit to protect future protestors.

The suit, filed by the D.C. chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of 25-year-old Dzhuliya Dashtamirova, said she deserves monetary damages for her injuries and emotional distress, and for being denied her right to protest.

On June 1, 2020, the suit said D.C. National Guard pilots flew a Black Hawk and a Lakota helicopter 45 feet above protestors who were walking as a group near the Gallery Place Metro station.

The helicopters’ blades subjected the Baltimore woman to “thundering, disorienting noise and churned gale-force winds into her body, driving shards of broken glass and debris into her face.”

One after the other, the helicopters hovered over the crowd for more than five minutes.

“My eyes and skin stung from debris. I couldn’t hear anything over the extremely powerful winds,” said Dashtamirova. “For weeks afterward, I had horrible migraines and lost sleep. I kept trying to figure out why the military attacked us, and I kept worrying that it would happen again.”

The suit details how she has been in emotional distress since the event, experiencing migraines and panic attacks which have impacted her ability to work and to exercise her right to protest, out of fear a similar event will happen again.

The use of the helicopter tactic against civilian protestors in the United States is unprecedented, according to the ACLU.

“The purpose of the tactic is to use the powerful wind and blaring noise generated by the
helicopter’s blades to intimidate the enemy,” it said.

After failing to reach any understanding with the National Guard through an administrative complaint, the suit said Dashtamirova wants to ensure the move is never used on civilian protestors again.

The D.C. National Guard did not have a comment on the complaint, filed in federal court.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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