By Meghan Imperio
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and BLM protests around the country, reports show that the California National Guard placed an F-15C fighter jet on alert. Members of the Guard believe that these fighter jets had no purpose other than to intimidate protestors and quell unrest.
According to an LA Times article which lays out the order given to the
Guard beginning in March 2020, this order was an unusual one, as it was for a possible domestic mission for expected resistance to the turmoil that would ensue as a result of new policies and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following the trial of Derek Chauvin.
This order initially arose in response to preparations for civil unrest or panic that may have ensued due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns as a result of it. However, sources from the Guard suggest that this mission had no other purpose other than to instill fear in protestors and cause protesters to disperse.
According to the LA Times, the sources from the Guard said “the order didn’t spell out the mission but, given the aircraft’s limitations, they understood it to mean the plane could be deployed to terrify and disperse protesters by flying low over them at window-rattling speeds, with its afterburners streaming columns of flames. Fighter jets have been used occasionally in that manner in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
According to the US Department of Defense, the tactics that the sources from the Guard are referred to as a Show of Force are frequently performed “to deter enemy activities and protect coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Although the members were expecting to prepare ground troops to aid state and local authorities, such as law enforcement, in enforcing the new stay-at-home orders in March and responding to disturbances and resistance of the lockdown, the orders to prepare the fighter jets were unexpected.
However, the sources for the article described that they believe that deploying these jets would have been an inappropriate misuse of the US military against its people. Further, they stated that such use of force could come across as the military threatening civilians, which would disgrace the military.
After the initial orders were given to the California National Guard to be on alert to deploy F-15C jets at the beginning of the pandemic amid the stay at home orders, the jet was put on alert and prepared to take off several times after to possibly respond to the killing of George Floyd in May, and any potential unrest as a result of the November presidential election.
Much of the criticism of these orders coming from the anonymous sources in the article is due to the military being ordered to use force domestically when the military’s purpose is to be used against foreign aggression. One of the sources described that this type of tactic against its people is a force that would happen in the Soviet Union.
Further, what added to the unease of the orders was that they were given informally, only spoken, or given through text messages rather than in formal, written orders. The lack of formality suggested that these orders were illegal, or used inappropriately.
Despite these sources claiming that they were ordered to prepare the jets, a spokesperson for the head of the California Guard denies that they were put on alert to respond to civil disturbances and unrest, claiming that the Guard does not use its resources to intimidate or scare civilians.
According to the spokesperson, to make orders to respond to domestic unrest, the Guard would require the approval of the First Air Force, which he states the head of the California Guard did not request. In a list released of the aircrafts that were prepared in response to any potential civil unrest, there were no fighter jets listed.
However, according to the article, there are “other internal Guard documents that show the jet was placed on an alert status for a possible election-week mission and that officers discussed concerns in March 2020 as well as that summer about using the F-15C for domestic purposes, including to intimidate civilians.”
Further, the crew was instructed to be ready and available to take off within two hours if ordered to do so shortly before the election.
Despite the reports of the Guard’s aircraft crews being put on alert on numerous occasions, both those in leadership positions of the Guard, as well as Governor Newsom’s administration, continue to claim that they did not approve or make any such orders.
In light of the contradictory claims regarding the Guard’s potential intimidation tactics, these claims are not the first concerns against the Guard’s use of aircrafts in cases of civil unrest, although officials continue to claim that there are no instances of planning to use such force against civilians.
Meghan Imperio is a writer for the LA Vanguard’s social justice desk. She is an English major at UCLA, originally from Glendale, CA.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9
Support our work – to become a sustaining at $5 – $10- $25 per month hit the link: