Angelenos are having a rough week: first one of their professional football teams, the Rams, lost the Super Bowl, and now the US military has decided to use the center of their city as an urban playground for weapons of war.
To those wondering about the Military helicopters in the skies over the Los Angeles area, here’s your answer: pic.twitter.com/LxzsDJ2Bul— Andrew Blankstein (@anblanx) February 5, 2019
"Members of the US Army will conduct military training in the greater Los Angeles and Long Beach areas Feb 4-9, 2019," says a Monday news release by the Los Angeles Police Department. "The purpose of the training is to enhance soldier skills by operating in various urban environments and settings."
Local CBS affiliate KCAL reported that the main neighborhoods where the exercises were being held were Silver Lake, downtown LA and Long Beach. They reported the drills were over by 10 p.m. Monday.
While police said residents near the training locations had been notified beforehand, the Los Angeles Times noted Tuesday that many said they had nonetheless been caught off guard by helicopters whizzing overhead and loud booms.
"This training is coordinated with the appropriate state, county and city officials as well as private property owners," the press release continues. "Safety precautions have been implemented to prevent unnecessary risk to both participants and/or area residents and property."
"Residents may hear sounds associated with the training, including aircraft and weapon simulations."
But it wasn't just choppers involved in these exercises. Air traffic trackers reported the flight path of a US Navy P-8 Poseidon, typically used for anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare, but which can also carry an electronics warfare suite, circling the downtown area several thousand feet up Monday evening.
This keeps being DELETED‼️ Army conducting training Downtown Los Angeles tonight! Helicopters and explosions being reported‼️Eyes open people‼️@Marfoogle @mitchellvii @LisaMei62 https://t.co/lVysNI91rq… pic.twitter.com/KX0KdICVVG— Raven 🇺🇸❤️🇺🇸 #BlessYourHeart (@336raven) February 5, 2019
A Dangerous Precedent
This is far from the first time US armed forces have used US cities as a training ground. Back in July 2015, the Jade Helm 15 exercise saw 1,200 US troops drill for a month in urban and rural environments across the southwest, all while the military barred media from reporting on the events, the Washington Post reported at the time. And then in 2016, the US Air National Guard "invaded" the city of Tampa, Florida, although this exercise was much better publicized, and the public was invited to watch.
This past April, the US Army's elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment zipped between New York skyscrapers and across neighborhoods in urban warfare exercises that the Drive reported caused New Yorkers to flood the emergency phone lines, fearing a repeat of the September 11, 2001, attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people in the city, was underway.
Activists have long warned that such training, while ostensibly used to prepare for urban combat overseas, could also be training for US military deployment at home in the event of domestic conflict or civil war. While the Post notes that these concerns have been largely dismissed as "conspiracy theories," there is precedent for such operations.
In 1968, on the heels of urban uprisings like those in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts and the so-called "long, hot summer" of 1967, the US military began preparing for "organized urban insurrection" in the next few years, according to retired US Army Colonel Robert B. Rigg, as quoted by The Atlantic. "Organized urban insurrection could explode to the extent that large American cities could become scenes of destruction approaching those of Stalingrad in World War II."
"Rooftops, windows, rooms high up, streets low down and back alleys nearby could become a virtual jungle for patrolling police or military forces at night when hidden snipers could abound, as they often do against US and allied forces in Vietnam in daylight," Rigg wrote in Army magazine in January 1968. "Could local police or National Guard units carry out such search-and-destroy campaigns in the cement-block jungles of high-rise buildings?"
"Army units must be oriented and trained to know the cement-and-asphalt jungle of every American city," he warned. "Possibly the sight of such maneuvers in several cities could prove a deterrent to urban insurrection."
Indeed, it was only months later that the downtowns of a dozen major US cities burned as massive urban uprisings followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The US National Guard deployed tens of thousands of troops across the US to restore and maintain order, including 13,600 just in Washington, DC, the Post reported.