“There’s no need to worry. I’m just delivering the mail.”
This was the message of Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old mailman from Ruskin, Florida, who insisted that he meant no harm in violating the District’s no-fly zone and landing his gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol lawn on Wednesday as part of a protest against corruption in American politics.
A message on Hughes’ website, thedemocracyclub.org, said he’d emailed President Obama about the upcoming visit. He also encouraged supporters to help ensure that his stunt would not be misinterpreted as a threat by asking them to call the White House switchboard: “Let them know that you demand a government that works for the people—and that you oppose shooting me down. (If you favor shooting me down, call that number, but wait until tomorrow.)”
Hughes was arrested shortly after he touched down, so it appears he was not able to immediately deliver the letters he had prepared for every member of Congress asking them to help end “the money chase.” His protest flight, the culmination of a journey chronicled by the Tampa Bay Times, led to a brief lockdown of the Capitol and street closures while police checked the small craft for explosives.
The anti-corruption copter was not the only eye-catching protest on the National Mall on Wednesday. In the pre-dawn hours, advocates for D.C. statehood and defenders of the District’s marijuana decriminalization measure erected a large “liberty pole” across from the Capitol and wrapped it in a #FREEDC banner, intending to criticize Congress for its threats to meddle with legalization.
Dc marijuana protestors currently chained to "liberty pole" and blasting music on the National Mall pic.twitter.com/oLq06J3O46— Perry Stein (@PerryStein) April 15, 2015
With supporters chained to the pole and refusing to move until 4/20, a leader of the pro-pot group was convinced to meet with U.S. Park Police to arrange a permit and make a few changes to the pole for safety. The addition of “a red light on top for passing aircraft,” in particular, sounds prudent given that the low-flying mail-copters have apparently arrived.