The National Guard sent up four sky planes to monitor protests in major cities — including one that watched a peaceful demonstration in the sleepy suburb that’s home to the head of the Guard’s California arm, according to a report.
Three of the reconnaissance planes buzzed overhead while George Floyd protests in Minneapolis, Phoenix and Washington, D.C. played out in June, rallies that drew huge crowds and were marred by violence.
A fourth was then sent up over El Dorado Hills, an affluent suburb of Sacramento, California that has no record of violent protests and is home to Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, the head of the California National Guard, according to the Los Angeles Times.
As well as the RC-26B reconnaissance plane, the Guard sent a Lakota helicopter to hover over the suburb, according to Guard officials and records. The crew “didn’t see anything” because there were only small, peaceful rallies, according to one Guard officer who told the paper the mission “was a waste of time.”
“Why aren’t we helping LA, San Francisco, Oakland?” another Guard officer speaking on the condition of anonymity told the paper referring to larger protests in the cities that often saw protesters clashing with police.
“It’s just buffoonery.”
The aircraft were requested by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office to monitor protesters, and Baldwin was listed as the officer authorizing the deployments, the report said, citing official records. No cost was given.
Baldwin told the LA paper that he does not recall whether he had approved the mission and insisted that the deployment had “nothing to do with” the fact that he lived in El Dorado Hills.
Five current and former Guard officers told the paper that they knew of no possible justification.
“El Dorado Hills was the most monitored place in California,” said recently retired Guard pilot Dan Woodside. “What was the threat? They are absolutely covering this up.”
A spokesman for Gov. Gavin Newsom, who oversees the California National Guard, calls the use of the spy plane “concerning” and said it “should not have happened.”
“It was an operational decision made without the approval — let alone awareness — of the governor,” the spokesman told the L.A. Times.
“After the incident, operational policies and protocols were reaffirmed and strengthened to ensure RC-26 aircraft are not used for these incidents again.”
The governor’s office did not elaborate or say whether the governor’s office is examining Baldwin’s role in the matter.
With Post Wires