Outraged by the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Dzhuliya (pronounced “Julia”) Dashtamirova came to Washington, D.C. on the evening of June 1, 2020 to protest police brutality and demand an end to racism. Ms. Dashtamirova and other protestors peacefully marched throughout the District. At around 9:50 p.m., when Ms. Dashtamirova and other protestors reached the area near Gallery Place, a Black Hawk military helicopter and a Lakota military helicopter, each of which was piloted by members of the D.C. National Guard, alternated flying low above protestors. The helicopters ascended and the protestors fled. When the protestors reached Judiciary Square, the Black Hawk returned and again flew low above the protestors. When the Black Hawk departed, the Lakota took its place and flew as low as approximately 45 feet above the ground. The helicopters’ rotors generated powerful winds that tore signs from buildings, snapped a tree from its roots, and swirled trash and glass shards from broken windows into the air. The attack caused debris to hit Ms. Dashtamirova in the face, stinging her eyes and mouth. It also left her terrified that she would face similar force if she dared to challenge the government again.
The tactic employed on June 1 has been used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflict zones around the world. The Trump administration’s decision to deploy it against racial justice protestors on American soil constitutes unprecedented attempt to interfere with fundamental constitutional rights. On October 14, 2020, the ACLU-DC filed a formal complaint on Ms. Dashtamirova’s behalf, challenging the National Guard’s conduct and demanding accountability. Ms. Dashtamirova gave the National Guard over two years to take action in response to that complaint. It failed to do so.
On March 14, 2023, Ms. Dashtamirova filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the helicopter attack in the hopes that future protestors do not face similar invasions of their rights.