A 61-year-old mailman from Florida has been arrested by the Secret Service after landing a gyrocopter near the U.S. Capitol as a protest of government corruption, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Doug Hughes was taken into custody by police after landing the aircraft. He said on his website:
The point of the flight is to spotlight corruption in DC and more importantly, to present the solution(s) to the institutional graft. There will be apprehension about the threat posed by any aircraft that defies the no-fly zone. I’m as curious as anyone what the response will be. Maybe more. The only reason I’m writing about me is to dispel any fear and foster some curiosity. Curiosity may hold an audience of voters long enough for them to hear about solutions to a problem they despaired of solving years ago. Let me assure you, as I have informed the authorities, I have no violent inclinations or intent. An ultralight aircraft poses no major physical threat – it may present a political threat to graft. I hope so. There’s no need to worry – I’m just delivering the mail.
The gyrocopter was searched by a bomb squad after it landed and the Capitol visitor’s center was briefly locked down.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Called the Protest the ‘Freedom Flight’
Hughes wrote about the planned gyrocopter flight on his website, The Democracy Club:
Let me say first – this is a non-violent demonstration. I have no intention of hurting anyone – I have taken every precaution to prevent any injury to anyone, including me. There is no way I can prevent over-reaction by the authorities, but I have given them as much information and advance warning as my fuel supply allows. When I took off, I was over an hour away from the no-fly zone.
The demonstration is about restoring democracy. Corruption in Washington DC has robbed the US citizens of the representative government that is our birthright. Polls show that the public is aware of the problem and VERY concerned, but they are largely uninformed that there is a solution and there are organizations prepared to make reform a reality
2. He Said He Had 2 Goals For the Flight
Hughes said he hoped the flight would result in two things:
As a result of this flight, two things will happen. (I hope.) First, we’re going to change the narrative – the story. Voters are going to quit being played like suckers with divisive hot-button issues and come together on a single issue. Honest government. Congress won’t start working for you or me when their big paycheck is from big business. Lobbyists, Special Interests, Unions. We have to make this happen. The political parties won’t. Congress sure won’t. Lobbyists love the status quo. The mainstream media (not the local media) is making a financial killing with mega-elections. It’s up to us.
Second, in every Congressional race in 2016, I want every candidate to take a stand on corruption. After this flight, we’re going to define exactly what reform means – set a written standard – and it’s that standard which candidates will have to endorse. Or the candidate will have to defend to voters why he took a lesser position. The candidate who only wants to talk ‘reform’ but won’t endorse the real deal will be facing someone who will endorse real reform. That may be in the primary or the general election. Giving you a choice is our job. The clear choice, establishment or reform, will be in place in just a year for just over 460 congressional races. You get to choose (That’s your job as a voter.) but for the first time in decades, you will have a meaningful choice.
3. He Was Visited By Secret Service Agents About His Plan Last Year
According to the Tampa Bay Times, agents from the Secret Service visited him at his home last year along with a local sheriff’s deputy to question him about his plan.
He told the newspaper that the agent asked him about “his plan to save America,” and he was honest and forthcoming with details, including telling the agent he owned a gyrocopter and planned to do something big to bring attention to campaign finance reform, but wouldn’t crash into a building or monument. He said he told them he is not violent, but just wanted to draw attention to the issue.
4. The Copter Barely Cleared a Statue Before Landing
According to witnesses, the copter approached the Capitol from the west, flew over the National Mall and the Capitol reflecting pool across the building before barely clearing a row of trees and a statue of General Ulysses S. Grant, MyFoxTampaBay reported.
A tourist, John Jewell said the craft landed hard and bounced. An officer holding a gun was already there.
“He didn’t get out until police officers told him to get out. He had his hands up”‘ and was quickly led away by the police, Jewell said, according to the news station. “They snatched him pretty fast.”
5. Hughes Said the Flight ‘Isn’t My Normal Route’
I’m a mailman in Riverview, FL – near Tampa. I’m 61 years old, married, with four children. I flew with my father who was a private pilot, fixed wing and almost helicopter. I’ve been flying gyrocopters for over a year.
I grew up in Santa Cruz, CA – at that time, a small coastal community about 70 miles south of San Francisco. It’s still 70 miles south of SF, but surrendered its small status decades ago. My first job was at the McDonalds on Mission Street in the old days before frozen fries. Some won’t believe this, but at one time McD’s made fries from spuds and mixed shakes on spindles. The Big Mac was 59 cents.