September 17, 2020

In sworn testimony, D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam DeMarco told lawmakers that in the hours before law enforcement cleared out protesters at Lafayette Square on June 1, federal officials began to accumulate ammunition and crowd control technology that can make it feel like a person's skin is on fire, The Washington Post reports.

DeMarco, who testified as a whistleblower, contradicted much of the Trump administration's version of events. His testimony before the House Natural Resources Committee in July, which was collected as part of an investigation into the use of police force against protesters in D.C., was shared with the Post.

On June 1, federal law enforcement pushed anti-racism protesters out of Lafayette Square, using tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber pellets, right before President Trump walked over for a photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church.

The Trump administration has alleged the protesters were violent, hurling rocks and water bottles at officers and shooting firecrackers. U.S. Park Police Chief Gregory Monahan said under oath that officers used a Long Range Acoustic Device to tell protesters they had to leave, as legally required. DeMarco testified that there was no Long Range Acoustic Device on the scene, and the crowd was told to leave via handheld megaphone.

Witnesses said they never heard calls to disperse, and DeMarco said he was 30 yards away from the megaphone and could barely hear the message. "From my observation, these demonstrators — our fellow American citizens — were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights," he said. "Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force."

DeMarco was the most senior D.C. National Guard officer at Lafayette Square and served as a liaison between the National Guard and the U.S. Park Police. He also testified that he was copied on an email sent before noon on July 1 by the Defense Department's top military police officer in the area. The officer asked if the D.C. National Guard had a Long Range Acoustic Device or an Active Denial System, also known as a "heat ray."

This microwave-like weapon was developed by the military, and when the invisible rays hit a person, it feels like their skin is burning. It was made to disperse large crowds, but is not used due to ethics and safety concerns. Federal police were unable to obtain the items. Read more about DeMarco's testimony at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia

June 3, 2020

Police officers in Mount Vernon, New York, allegedly participated in a rash of misconduct, secretly recorded telephone tapes obtained by Gothamist/WNYC reveal.

In one of the secretly recorded phone conversations, a Mount Vernon police officer, John Campo, accused a colleague, Camilo Antonini, of framing innocent civilians, while apparently giving preferential treatment to favored city drug dealers. Campo also alleged officers planted drugs, illegally entered homes, and fabricated search warrants in some cases. He said he brought the concerns to two different commissioners, who referred him to the FBI, but Campo ultimately decided not to cooperate because he didn't want to wear a wire or take a polygraph test.

Another officer who was secretly recorded, Avion Lee, said there was one incident where she and her colleagues were on patrol when they approached a young man who took off running. The officers pursued him, and when Lee caught up to them, the officers had badly beaten the man. When they took him to jail, the officers allegedly concocted a story that they'd seen him participate in drug transaction, so that it didn't look like brutality. Prosecutors dropped the case against the man the next day.

The phone conservations were recorded by Marushea Bovell, a 12-year veteran of the police department in the city just north of the Bronx. Bovell has reported alleged corruption to higher-ups, including to Westchester County's District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, but "nothing happened," so he decided the "only option left is to let the public know." Read more at Gothamist. Tim O'Donnell

April 23, 2020

Attorneys for Rick Bright, the federal scientist who once led the department leading coronavirus vaccine development, said on Thursday he is filing a whistleblower complaint, alleging that he was ousted because he did not promote a drug treatment touted by President Trump.

Bright was removed on Tuesday as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, and given a job at the National Institutes of Health with fewer responsibilities. Bright's lawyers said they will file formal complaints with the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department and the federal Office of Special Counsel, which will detail "the retaliatory treatment to which he was subjected by HHS political leadership after raising appropriate science-based concerns about White House pressure on treatment and vaccines related to the COVID-19 pandemic."

The filings will also "make clear that Dr. Bright was sidelined for one reason only — because he resisted efforts to provide unfettered access to potentially dangerous drugs, including chloroquine, a drug promoted by the administration as a panacea, but which is untested and possibly deadly when used improperly. The facts and concerns raised by Dr. Bright are compelling and well-documented and soon they will be public."

Bright released a statement on Wednesday saying he believes he was removed as director after he made it known he felt "the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic" should be put "into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines, and other technologies that lack scientific merit." When asked about this by reporters, Trump said he had never heard of Bright. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads