A man was arrested Wednesday after he landed a small helicopter on the west lawn of the Capitol, according to Cox Radio congressional reporter Jamie Dupree. The Secret Service didn’t immediately identify the man, but a 61-year-old mailman from Florida named Doug Hughes earlier told the Tampa Bay Times of his intentions to land a helicopter on the lawn of the Capitol building to protest the so-called Citizens United decision that led to the rise of super PACs.
The U.S. Supreme Court decision virtually allows the super PACs to raise unlimited amounts of money for candidates without having to disclose their donors. Hughes told the Times he was aware that he may be shot down during his flight, but he was willing to take the risk. “No sane person would do what I’m doing,” he said in a story published Wednesday. "I don't believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 61-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle. I don't have any defense, okay, but I don't believe that anybody wants to personally take responsibility for the fallout."
Hughes set up a website where he announced his plans to fly his gyrocopter to Washington, D.C. and had a live stream of his flight. "The demonstration is about restoring democracy," he wrote. "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."
While the incident didn't prompt a lockdown of the Capitol, a lockdown was instituted there on Saturday after a man committed suicide in front of the building, according to Reuters. And the White House was under lockdown on Sunday after a 4-year-old got under a bike rack on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Secret Service told CNN.
Hughes said he planned on using the helicopter to deliver letters to all 535 members of Congress. "I'm demanding reform and declaring a voter's rebellion in a manner consistent with Jefferson's description of rights in the Declaration of Independence," the letters read, according to the Times. "As a member of Congress, you have three options. 1. You may pretend corruption does not exist. 2. You may pretend to oppose corruption while you sabotage reform. 3. You may actively participate in real reform."
The helicopter was described by the Secret Service as a “small gyrocopter.” The agency said the man flying it was arrested, according to Dupree. The agency didn’t name the man, but the incident closely resembles Hughes’s plans.
The 61-year-old had said he had second thoughts about going through with it, but they dissipated. "I have thought about walking away from this whole thing because it's crazy," he said. "But I have also thought about being 80 years old and watching the collapse of this country and thinking that I had an idea once that might have arrested the fall and I didn't do it. And I will tell you completely honestly: I'd rather die in the flight than live to be 80 years old and see this country fall."