Last night, people in Minneapolis and St. Paul were surprised and scared to see and hear helicopters flying at low altitudes above them.
Folks took to the interwebs to wonder, what the hell is going on? The intrigue was especially thick because local authorities had given no advance warning about whatever was taking place.
Downtown Minneapolis invaded by Black Hawk helicopters [PHOTOS]
First off, here are some clips of the scene above downtown Minneapolis:
And here's the blow-by-blow of how Pioneer Press night reporter Tad Vezner figured out what in God's name was going on:
massive helicopters flying low over downtown. Watch Commander thinks it's National Guard training, but he's been given no heads-up
OK confirmed: Homeland Security doing low altitude training until midnight with local law enforcement.-- Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) August 19, 2014
The timing of the Homeland Security-local law enforcement drills couldn't have been much worse in light of the questions Michael Brown's shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, has raised about the militarization of American police forces.
Think they could've let the watch commander know, at least. Who were they trying to take by surprise?-- Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) August 19, 2014
(For more, including City Pages video of the choppers, click to page two.)
President Obama, addressing the issue during a news conference yesterday, said, "I think one of the great things about the United States has been our ability to maintain a distinction between our military and domestic law enforcement."
"That helps preserve our civil liberties," Obama continued. "That helps ensure that the military is accountable to civilian direction. And that has to be preserved."
On that note, here's arguably the tweet of the night:
And Obama's comments in mind as you process this:
Weren't we just discussing the militarization of local pol-- oh never mind-- Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) August 19, 2014
Vezner reports that Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder -- the person responsible for all media calls pertaining to the training -- wasn't exactly forthcoming with information:
Heard 2nd-hand that PD may be getting some military hardware in exchange for letting Seals use our city as a training ground.-- Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) August 19, 2014
So Minneapolis PD PIO is responsible for all media calls. Releasing no info. His response to all questions was: "it's a training exercise."-- Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) August 19, 2014
Minneapolis PIO said the exercises will be going on "this week." Another question they refused to answer, is whether that means all week-- Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) August 19, 2014
Here's from city of Minneapolis release: Please call with locations or addresses you have questions about. These are Department of..(1of2)-- Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) August 19, 2014
So at least now you know what's going on, even if, like Obama, you don't necessarily like it.
(2of2 cont)...Defense exercises that should not be shared with the general public and security is of the utmost concern."-- Tad Vezner (@SPnoir) August 19, 2014
:::: UPDATE ::::
Here's video of the helicopters shot and put together by our web editor, Tatiana Craine:
Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.