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March 14, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The ACLU of the District of Columbia today filed a complaint under the Federal Tort Claims Act on behalf of Dzhuliya Dashtamirova, a 25-year-old woman who suffered injuries caused by low-flying military helicopters that assaulted racial justice protestors on June 1, 2020, in downtown D.C.

Ms. Dashtamirova filed an administrative complaint with the National Guard in 2020, which the Guard failed to resolve. Having waited over two years for a resolution from the National Guard, Ms. Dashtamirova has now gone to court to seek accountability for the 2020 attack and its aftermath.

On June 1, 2020, demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C., to protest the gross, systemic injustices perpetrated by law enforcement against Black people in the United States, exemplified by the murder of George Floyd. Ms. Dashtamirova traveled from Baltimore to join other racial justice demonstrators in the District.

Just hours after federal officers brutally attacked civil rights demonstrators across the street from the White House without warning or provocation, the D.C. National Guard hovered military helicopters above racial justice protesters, including Ms. Dashtamirova, at Gallery Place. The helicopters then followed demonstrators to Judiciary Square, where one descended as low as 45 feet above people's heads. Demonstrators crouched and protected their heads as gale-force winds hurled dirt and broken glass at them, tore signs from buildings, and ripped branches off trees.

“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 U.S. military has used this low-flying maneuver in international conflicts as an intimidation and dispersal tactic that causes immediate harm and threatens greater force to come.

“This helicopter attack was a dangerous and shocking show of force against Americans exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Michael Perloff, Staff Attorney for ACLU-D.C. “This lawsuit is an important way to hold our government accountable for the injury and terror they caused and to prevent another attack on people demonstrating in the Nation’s capital.”

Governors command their state national guards, but without statehood, the D.C. National Guard is under the command of the president.

In addition to monetary damages, Ms. Dashtamirova’s lawsuit seeks to set a precedent that protects other demonstrators from being attacked by low-flying military helicopters when they are exercising their First Amendment rights.

The complaint can be found here.