U.S. protests: National guard spy plane monitored protests

October 19, 2020 - 23:9

A peaceful protest in a sleepy and affluent suburb that is home to the head of the California national guard was among four demonstrations monitored by national guard spy planes.

The planes flew over several cities in early June to monitor street protests following the police killing of George Floyd, triggering concerns the military was improperly gathering intelligence on US citizens, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Three reconnaissance planes watched demonstrations in Minneapolis, Phoenix, and Washington DC that drew large crowds and were marred by violence. But the target of the fourth plane was the prosperous Sacramento suburb of El Dorado Hills, where much smaller rallies were entirely peaceful, the Times said.

Local and state authorities have not explained how and why that neighborhood was chosen when other cities that saw property destruction and street clashes amid large protests, including Los Angeles and Oakland, were not.

The head of the California national guard, Maj Gen David S Baldwin, lives in El Dorado Hills. In addition to deploying the RC-26B reconnaissance plane, the guard sent a Lakota helicopter to hover over the suburb, according to officials and records. The aircraft was requested by the El Dorado County sheriff’s office, state records show.

A spokesman for Governor Gavin Newsom, who oversees the state national guard, criticized the operation.

“The use of the RC-26 to meet the sheriff’s request for aerial support to provide situational awareness for law enforcement is concerning and should not have happened,” Nathan Click said. “It was an operational decision made without the approval – let alone awareness – of the governor. After the incident, operational policies and protocols were reaffirmed and strengthened to ensure RC-26 aircraft are not used for these incidents again.”

Click did not say if the governor’s office was examining Baldwin’s role in the matter.

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