A military grade predator drone was seen over the protests in Minnesota and House Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, want to know why.
“The deployment of drones and officers to surveil protests is a gross abuse of authority and is particularly chilling when used against Americans who are protesting law enforcement brutality,” the lawmakers wrote. “This Administration has undermined the First Amendment freedoms of Americans of all races who are rightfully protesting George Floyd’s killing.”
The drone was seen well inside of the 100 mile inland operational zone of the Customs and Border Protection, and was possibly used to identify specific protestors. The letter sent by Democratic representatives is the first salvo in their study of the Trump administration's handling of the protest and where the administration finds the line between the rights of protesters and security measures taken by officials. In particular, scrutiny is put on the measures taken by Attorney General William Barr in response to the protests that arose in response to the police killing of George Floyd. These have included deploying riot police with no agency identification in Washington DC and having the National Guard do surveillance flybys over various cities.
The Customs and Border Patrol have limited rights to fly drones over regions within 100 miles of the national borders. Despite this, the drone in Minnesota was 300 miles away from the Canadian borders. The ACLU has stated that the 100 mile rule is routinely ignored by authorities.
The agency declined to comment publicly on the Democrats’ letter Monday. “Correspondence between members of Congress and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is handled through official channels, and will be addressed directly with the members,” a CBP spokesperson wrote in an email to VICE News.