Unannounced drills blasted as “outrageous” by city councilor
The U.S. Army is set to continue training exercises involving low flying “black helicopters” over Minneapolis and St. Paul tonight despite residents and local officials expressing outrage at the danger posed by the unannounced drills.
With the agreement of local police departments, the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment out of Fort Campbell Kentucky has been conducting the exercises, which involve low flying Night Stalker black hawk helicopters buzzing over rooftops and in between buildings, since Monday and will continue with the drills through until Thursday evening.
Similar drills were conducted over the twin cities in 2012, before which police gave residents three days notice. This time the exercises were completely unannounced, prompting panicked locals to flood 911 and non-emergency lines.
With both law enforcement and the Army refusing to divulge precisely what the exercise is supposed to accomplish, residents and city councilors complained bitterly at taxpayer money being wasted on the exercise.
“I think it’s outrageous,” said St. Paul City Council member Chris Tolbert. “We’re going to have Black Hawks flying at a low level over a densely populated urban area without any notice at all? I had helicopters shaking my house at 11:57 last night. They were right over the trees.”
His sentiments were echoed by city council member Dave Thune, who slammed the drills as “incredibly unsafe.”
“When you’ve got Blackhawk helicopters flying between buildings full of people in the middle of the night, it’s just not safe … It’s absolutely wrong for us as a civilian police department to engage in military exercises. It shouldn’t happen here,” said Thune.
Pioneer Press reporter Joe Soucheray, who described how the low flying choppers literally shook his house, criticized authorities for failing to provide advance warning or information about the training program.
“We are supposed to be good and quiet little citizens who don’t ask too many questions,” wrote Soucheray. “Go back into your basements, folks. We’re just doing a little buzzing over your roof, maybe dropping a SEAL down a rope or whatever we feel like doing. You all just move along.”
Soucheray took issue with residents being treated like “guinea pigs,” writing, “These exercises have to be incredibly dangerous. Large, fast, essentially blacked-out helicopters are flying over a packed urban center, between downtown St. Paul buildings where people live.”
Minneapolis resident Daniel Feidt told CBS Minnesota that the training was “a waste of taxpayer money,” remarking, “It’s inappropriate for Special Forces to be operating in American cities.”
Tonya Tennessen, spokeswoman for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, justified the exercises by citing 9/11, commenting, “In a post-9/11 world, this is how homeland security happens. … These exercises are taking place in cities all over the country.”
Maj. Allen Hill denied eyewitness reports that military personnel were seen rappelling onto the top of the Federal Reserve building in downtown Minneapolis.
In 2012, Miami residents were shocked to be awoken by a military exercise in the middle of the night which involved helicopters, fighter jets, along with simulated gunfire and grenades. Black Hawk helicopters also flew low over Los Angeles during a military drill the same year.
Back in March, we reported on Department of Defense exercises in Broward County during which low flying military helicopters landed on city buildings in Fort Lauderdale. According to a local reporter, the drills were centered around, “scaring the crap out of people”.
As we have previously explained, many see the drills as a means of acclimatizing people to accept the prospect of martial law. Some in Minneapolis and St. Paul have suggested that police departments agreed to host the drills in return for military equipment from the Pentagon.
As we have seen in Ferguson, Missouri over the last 10 days, such gear is being used to target protesters, journalists and silence the First Amendment as America increasingly begins to resemble a banana republic.