George Floyd killing: Humvees thunder across as US cities resemble 'war zones'

The killing of George Floyd, an American of African origin, at the hands of police officials in Minnesota on May 25 has triggered massive protests against racism and police high-handedness in several US cities. The situation has steadily deteriorated over the last several days with incidents of vandalism, arson and looting threatening to lend a negative image to demonstrations. Scenes on the streets have been so alarming that the National Guard has been activated in several cities to restore and maintain order. Many highlighted how it was surreal to see military humvees either being driven in disciplined columns or being stationed at key junctions of these cities.

The National Guard patrol on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)
The National Guard patrol on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, California.

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Humvee is the colloquial name given to High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle which is used extensively in combat zones by US military. These vehicles have been in military service since 1983 and are preferred for their all-terrain abilities, strong armour and interior space that can often be crucial for sensitive transportation purposes. Manufactured by AM General, each vehicle is estimated to cost around $250,000.

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Humvees have been a common sight in combat and war zones where US troops are or had been deployed. These vehicles have also attained a cult status as they have been extensively featured in Hollywood war movies like Black Hawk Down and The Hurt Locker.

Real life though is a whole lot more challenging.

National Guard personnel positioned themselves in cities like Minneapolis, Atlanta and Los Angeles, among others. In some areas, the Humvees were used to block roads for agitating protesters in a possible bid to check on miscreants who may also be a part of the groups. It is possible that these hefty military-grade vehicles are being increasingly used because recent days have seen police vehicles and vehicles belonging to other security services being either vandalized or burnt or both. Known for its capabilities in conflict zones, the Humvees therefore may prevent such incidents taking place.

US cities are increasingly becoming conflict zones in their own way with demonstrations gaining momentum. And while incidents of hooliganism targeting public and private property have occurred, most agree that a larger issue of racism needs to be addressed and focused upon especially after the killing of Floyd.

Floyd was pinned down by a cop identified as Derek Chauvin - along with three other cops - who has since been removed from the police force and has been charged with murder. Floyd could not be revived after being put into an ambulance. Prior to the tragic incident, he had been been arrested for allegedly using counterfeit money at a store to buy cigarettes.

First Published Date: 03 Jun 2020, 11:52 AM IST
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