Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Tanks In Los Angeles

First I got an e-mail alerting me to a story that was carried on LA IndyMedia:

LOS ANGELES, November 9, 2004 - At 7:50 PM two armored tanks showed up at an anti-war protest in front of the federal building in Westwood. The tanks circled the block twice, the second time parking themselves in the street and directly in front of the area where most of the protesters were gathered. Enraged, some of the people attempted to block the tanks, but police quickly cleared the street. The people continued to protest the presence of the tanks, but about ten minutes the tanks drove off. It is unclear as to why the tanks were deployed to this location.
There was video from the event as well, which, curiously, has since been taken down from the site or at least the link has been disabled. It's definitely worth watching if it comes back up. It's extremely creepy.

It had become a big story on dailyKos and since this event happened in my backyard, I figured I'd do some digging. I called Representative Henry Waxman's office and they were equally curious about the story and have been extremely helpful in trying to get to the bottom of it. They found out that the tanks had driven up from Camp Pendleton in San Diego to attend a Veterans Day event that was to take place today at the West LA Veterans Affairs Center, which is just up the street from where the protest was.

Now what the tank was actually doing stopping at the site of the protest is still a bit murky. The woman I spoke with at Waxman's office told me that it was suggested to her that the tanks were merely pulling over to ask for directions. And another said that the protesters got in front of the tank when they saw it and actually prevented the tank from moving on. The tank certainly had no business driving past the protest if it was going directly to the VA Center, so either they really were lost or...well you can imagine the speculation. Hopefully we'll hear more on Friday but Waxman's office is closed tomorrow...for Veteran's Day.


Blogger Teterla said...

The story was reported, in brief, this am on Goodman's "Democracy Now," show. They also reported that the Bush administration is planning on employing some 4,000 armed guards to man the January Inauguration. Exactly who are they THIS afraid of?

10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, after reading this I think it might be a good time to invest in Alcoa (manufacturer of Reynolds Wrap, the prefered beanie foil covering of "gob-mint comin' to git me", conspiracy-believing paranoids, nationwide). I see their business having a nice little spike in sales over the next couple quarters.

Todd: the vehicles in that video are not "tanks", they're Marine Corps LAV-25s. Tanks are heavy, armored, tracked vehicles with really big guns. LAV-25s are light, wheeled, assault trucks. I would expect, given your familiarty with the HBO movie "Pentagon Wars", you would understand the difference and the distinction between the two types.

But allow me to summarize: if the military was REALLY going to go in after protestors, they wouldn't do it with LAVs. Reason is that while LAVs are resistant to light small arms fire, they really don't do too well against larger caliber rifles (30.08s have some penetration capability, could even produce nasty spalling inside the vehicle), or beer bottles filled with gasoline for that matter. They also wouldn't go in with just two vehicles, or without air cover of some sort.

The fun thing has been to watch all the "OMG! Now they're sending in tanks against us" folks get LAUGHED at over on the various military forums by people who actually have some basic knowlege (if not hands-on experience) of such things.

In short, Todd, unless you see Abramses and Bradleys rolling down the street en-masse and in an offensive posture (their turrets actively traversing as they attempt to acquire targets) with Apaches overhead (as apparently happened during the 1992 LA riots), you really shouldn't be worrying too much about things like this. Or trying to stir up passions in people who don't know any better.

Teterla, 4,000 armed personnel for the Inauguration actually seems a bit on the light side to me. 4-5 TIMES that many seems on the safer side of reasonable, given how there will be hundreds of thousands of people in the city that day, the need to secure the bridges, the Metro system, the buildings and sidewalks along the parade route, key buildings and memorials, the various inaugural balls, the water supply and the like.

I'd also note, just for a bit of perspective, that the LAPD has somewhere in the neighborhood of 9,000-10,000 active-duty cops.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big tanks or little tanks, any use of Federal military might against American citizens is a direct violation of the Posse Comitatus Act. (See General Wesley Clark and Waco.)

Definition of the Posse Comitatus Act:

The National Security Act of 1947 created the Department of Defense by combining the War Department and Department of the Navy. This new entity was defined by US Code Title 10. The existing Title 10 reference to Posse Comitatus is:

Sec. 375. Restriction on direct participation by military personnel. The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe such regulation as maybe necessary to ensure that any activity (including the provision of any equipment of facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel) under this chapter does not include or permit direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law.

There is an exception in Title 10 which permits Special Operations Forces to train civilian law enforcement in counter-terrorism and anti-terrorism including counter-drug enforcement and against weapons of mass destruction. (See also Title 18, Section 831.)

The second definition of Posse Comitatus in the US Code is found in Title 18, Part I, Chapter 6, Section 1385:

Whoever, except in such cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

This means search and rescue missions for regulars only. The National Guard being an exception despite it being in a gray area of "Not regular, but Not Militia. (See Federal activation of NG in Alabama w/o request of Governor George Wallace.)

The Coast Guard is considered to be a Law Enforcement agency.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finding s%^t like this on the internet makes me want to tear my F%^&#$g hair out... I am a soldier, a crewman on an Abrams Tank, and I've been a soldier for 14 years. All of these people who are ranting about "tanks coming to get us", I swear to god, I sighed when I read it.
First, I think it's been well noted that those were not tanks, but LAV's. Second, It's worth noting that the crews of the vehicles do not interact with the crowd at all. Third, the most basic of training for riot control situations tells you that you NEVER, EVER drive your vehicle directly up to the "Rioters" most especially not bumper to bumper; instead, you use standoff and dispersion. It is always assumed that if you are facing a crowd that there is a potential for riot, and if the riot jumps off, in the center of it is the worse place to be, from a suppression stand point. Fourth, none of the crewmen had small arms, even the Jafo's sticking out the back. Fifth, for christ's sake, every major metropolitan police force owns armored cars, and they USE them. Sixth, regardless of what people that hate and fear their government think, it would simply have been too much effort and expense to send armored vehicles just to "send a Message," when the very capable and well versed in ass kicking LAPD was available.

You want to know what happened? Those cats were trying to get to the V.A. Building, got directions to the federal building, circled the block looking for the VA, saw a crowd, and the section sergeant said to himself "that must be the place." He and his section pull up to the crowd, and realize that that was not the place; a quick cell phone call ensues, then after getting his ass chewed by Gunny, he leaves, circles the block again and goes to the VA building.

Regardless of the fact that this is a much more reasonable and lucid explanation for what occurred; regardless of the fact that the real military inside the United States doesn't act like the movies, where there's a klaxon sounding and the fully dressed marines spring from their bunks and sprint out to the armored vehicle inexplicably parked next to their barracks and roar of into the night to all the way to another city, the protesters are still going to scream "they're sending tanks after us!!"

Jesus, I'm so tired...

4:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why no email?

In any case, this comment was posted at

"I'm the second guy on the right. Our corporal received orders to route by the protest and we were directed to stop in front of you and then to go around the block and stop again. Don't believe any more of the anonymous comments you're reading here."

This is specific. Waxman's office can follow up on it. I hope you will pass this along to them.

Handy Fuse
Simply Appalling

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the post is specific. But then again so were those FORGED Bush/Air National Guard documents that CBS ran with ... and then was forced to retract after the non-ignorant started noticing really obvious discrepencies.

Such appears to be the case with this post, which is best described as suspect. To wit:

1.) There's no way that a LAV (or a section/partial section of LAVs) being sent into a crowd-control situation is going to be under the command of a "Corporal" - the most junior grade of non-commissioned officer. It will be under the command of at least a senior NCO (Sergeant grade), if not a commissioned officer.

2.) While it is possible that these guys were intentially diverted while on their way to a Veterans Day dog and pony show, it's still unlikely that they would be under the command of a "Corporal". In all likelihood it would be under the command of a "LANCE Corporal", which is a mid-ranking NCO.

3.) Unlike other branches of the military, the Marine Corps is, culturally, VERY specific in their language when it comes to describing rank. In the best case (for the alleged Marine who made the referenced post, that is) scenario, the LAVs would be under the command of a LANCE Corporal ... and a REAL Marine WOULD refer to the ranking Marine as such (and NOT as a "Corporal").

And again, as a previous poster stated, the actions by the two LAV crews are completely inconsistant with forces being employed in either crowd control or show-of force situations. They would NOT have gotten as close to the protesters as these guys did. The actions ARE consistant with two LAVs that got bad directions and were trying to figure out where they needed to go.

Of course, there are some out there (or maybe the right term to use is "here") who just like to sit back and believe that the eeeeevil military is going around looking for conspiratorial ways to deny people their various Constitutional rights. And WILL believe anything that comes out in support of such notions, despite all overwhelming and blatently obvious evidence to the contrary.

Time to MoveOn, folks.

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