Florida Man Doug Hughes, attempting to personally petition Congress (with 535 individual letters) about campaign finance reform. Per the Washington Post:
U.S. Capitol Police said that a small gyrocopter with one occupant landed on the West Lawn of the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.
One person has been detained, Capitol Police spokeswoman Kimberly Schneider said in an e-mail.[Here is why you’re not allowed to fly your gyrocopter in Washington]
Eyewitnesses in Capitol offices reported seeing police run toward the aircraft and take the pilot away. The small craft landed in the middle of the West Front Lawn, where the annual Christmas tree and Fourth of July concert stage are set up…
Streets around the scene were closed for much of the afternoon, but reopened about 4 p.m.
President Obama was in Charlotte on Wednesday afternoon, but he was briefed about the gyrocopter incident, according to White House spokesman Eric Schultz…
More details, crappy cellphone video of panicky tourists & maps at the link.
Hughes’ hometown paper, the Tampa Bay Times, has much more background:
… Doug Hughes’ close friend and co-worker, Mike Shanahan, said today that the Ruskin mailman is not a terrorist and did not mean any harm with his protest.
And just hours before Hughes landed in Washington, Hughes’ friend said he called a Secret Service agent to notify him of the possibility of the gyrocopter flight…
About a year ago, Shanahan said, Hughes told him of the idea to deliver letters to legislators by gyrocopter. Not long after, they were both questioned by a Secret Service official in Florida, he said. Wednesday morning, Shanahan said, Hughes called his friend and said he was in Washington, ready to take off.
So, he said, he pulled out the phone number he had saved from the Secret Service agent he spoke to months ago. He dialed. No answer, but he said he left a message. No call back. He still was not certain if the protest was actually going to happen.
“I didn’t want to get all of D.C. in an uproar and it turn out he was just practicing or something or he was just pulling my leg,” Shanahan said….
TBT reporter Ben Montgomery has a ton of background detail and Hughes’ video manifesto at the link — here’s hoping our brave defenders at Homeland Security don’t try to arrest him too:
… Hughes thinks the answers are out there, and they’re non-partisan. He points to reform thinkers like political activist Cenk Uygar and Harvard legal theorist Lawrence Lessig, who launched a political action committee to end political action committees. The motto: “Embrace the irony.”…
His idea began to blossom 2½ years ago, after his son, John Joseph Hughes, 24, committed suicide by driving his car head-on into another man, killing them both. “Police: Suicidal driver caused deadly crash,” read the headline in the Leesburg newspaper. He was crushed by grief, and disappointed that his son had killed himself — and someone else — to make a stupid, worthless point…
At first he thought about using an ultralight fixed-wing plane, but that felt too threatening. He finally found the gyrocopter, which has un-powered helicopter blades on top for lift but gets its thrust from a propeller on the back. The cockpit, if you can call it that, is wide open. “This is as transparent a vehicle that I could come up with,” Hughes said. “You can literally see through it.” He can land the craft in a space the size of half a basketball court.
Hughes set up a delayed email blast to alert every breaking news desk at every TV station and newspaper he could find, as well as the Secret Service… He hope[d] this public broadcast will deter the authorities from shooting him out of the sky…
I’m sure it will be a great consolation to the Sunday talking heads, amid their calls for enhanced funding of DHS’s research into armored gyrfalcons & guard dogs with mouths full of bees, that Mr. Hughes is both bipartisan and centrist.
Apart from enhanced protest techniques, what’s on the agenda for the evening?