US deploys weapons of war in bid to control protests

By Liu Xuanzun and Zhang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/3 19:01:58

Killing machines could result in more casualties: expert

Military police officers hold down a protester near the White House on Monday as demonstrations surrounding George Floyd's death continue. Police fired tear gas outside the White House late Sunday as protesters again took to the streets to voice fury at police brutality, with the Trump administration branding instigators of the six nights of rioting as "domestic terrorists," there were more confrontations between police and protesters. Photo:AFP

 The US has turned to a wide selection of weapons originally intended for war in an attempt to quell the rampant riots triggered by the death of African American George Floyd, a move that shows US authorities' inability to handle the situation and which could lead to more casualties, Chinese experts said.

Since the start of the protests, more than 17,000 members of the US National Guard have been mobilized in 23 states and Washington DC to strengthen law enforcement against protesters. Added to some 45,000 National Guard members called to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, this brings the total number to 66,700, CNN reported on Tuesday.

The Pentagon has also ordered active-duty military police from the XVIII Airborne Corps to the DC area, US military news website reported on Monday.

Some Chinese netizens and media were surprised to see that US troops had also brought in heavy weapons of war with them against the protesting civilians, prompting many to ask, "Is this too much?"

Some of the most frequently seen heavy equipment in the US protest control operations were armored vehicles, including RC-31 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles, M1117 armored security vehicles and Humvees equipped with M153 weapon stations, as identified by Chinese media on Wednesday.

Many of the vehicles, like the RC-31, were developed to fight against terrorists, and are widely used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Even US netizens slammed their deployment, saying this was an overreaction and has turned the US into the Middle East. Some netizens also questioned, "Is this in Washington DC or Baghdad?"

Beijing-based military expert Wei Dongxu told the Global Times on Wednesday that US troops feared that less fortified vehicles may not be able to protect them when protesters throw stones or explosives at them, so they chose to use armored vehicles, and could also be hoping that these powerful weapons serve as deterrents.

A Predator B drone affiliated with US Customs and Border Protection was dispatched during the protest in Minneapolis, Daily Mail reported. 

The Predator B is a type of armed reconnaissance drone capable of conducting surveillance missions and carrying air-to-ground missiles to launch direct attacks. It has also been widely deployed in anti-terrorist missions in the Middle East.

While this particular Predator drone was not armed, it can use its advanced optic devices to ascertain the protesters' distribution and marching direction and provide information to ground troops, Wei said.

US Army Black Hawk and Lakota helicopters were also seen flying low and attempted to disperse protesters in Washington DC, Fox News reported on Tuesday.

The deployment of lethal weapons has also led to casualties. A soldier with the Minnesota National Guard fired his weapon on Sunday night at a moving vehicle in Minneapolis as street protests turned violent, US military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported on Monday.

Wei said the use of weapons of war could further incite protesters' hostility and hatred, prompting them to take even more aggressive actions.

Echoing Wei's view, Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the use of armed forces could deteriorate the situation and bring about more casualties.

Dispatching the military and weapons showed that both the federal and state governments are incapable of handling the current situation, since the anti-racism protests have touched a longstanding nerve in US society and the authorities chose to respond with an iron fist, Li said.

Trump himself, as a white supremacist, has aggravated the racism and social divide during his administration rather than exert any positive influence on solving the problem, which peaked after Floyd's death, Li said, noting that the president had no basic understanding or plan to address the problem, and adopting a high-pressure strategy will only exacerbate the chaos. 

Newspaper headline: War weapons used to quell riots


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