Police arrested a man in front of the United States Capitol in Washington, DC on Wednesday afternoon after he landed a small gyrocopter on the west lawn of the building.
Eyewitnesses near the US Capitol saw police rush to a greenery on the east end of the National Mall early Wednesday afternoon after the craft landed. The pilot was apprehended at the scene.
Police have not yet identified the man, but the aircraft’s pilot is said to be 61-year-old Doug Hughes of Florida. According to a Tampa Bay Times profile of the man, published as his flight began on Wednesday, the event was meant to protest the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in the Citizens United case.
“The US Capitol Police is investigating a gyro copter with a single occupant that has landed on the grassy area of the West Lawn of the US Capitol,” Capitol Police Lt. Kimberly Schneider said in a statement to CNN. “The US Capitol Police continues to investigate with one person detained and temporary street closures in the immediate area.”
The newspaper had published a profile about Hughes on account of his plans to “draw attention” to the Citizens United case in which the high court ruled that corporations can contribute endlessly to political causes.
“I’m not promoting myself,” Hughes told the paper prior to its publication. “I’m trying to direct millions of people to information, to a menu of organizations that are working together to fix Congress.”
According to the paper, Hughes had brought his gyrocopter from Florida to an area outside of DC late last week. On Wednesday, he planned to “to buzz through the air at 45 miles per hour at about 300 feet up in an ultralight gyrocopter toward Washington, D.C., toward protected airspace, where, if his plan works, he’ll land on the lawn of the United States Capitol building and deliver the mail,” journalist Ben Montgomery wrote.
“We’re heading full-throttle toward a breakdown,” Hughes told the paper of the Citizens United case. “There’s no question that we need government, but we don’t have to accept that it’s a corrupt government that sells out to the highest bidder. We can have a government that works for the people, that answers to the people, that can only take money from the people in small amounts.”
“I don’t believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 61-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle,” Hughes told the paper. “I don’t have any defense, okay, but I don’t believe that anybody wants to personally take responsibility for the fallout.”
The Times described the gyrocopter as lightweight aircraft fitted with un-powered helicopter blades on top for lift and propeller on the back for thrust with a wide-open cockpit.
“This is as transparent a vehicle that I could come up with,” Hughes said. “You can literally see through it.”
Congressional staffers reported that the area was placed on lockdown on Wednesday as authorities rushed to apprehend the pilot and make sense of the scene. According to a local ABC News affiliate, the White House was also placed on lockdown as a precautionary measure.