How Garbage Trucks Are Used To Stop Vehicle Attacks

Sep 13, 2017
Originally published on September 13, 2017 8:05 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

It is going to be crowded here in Washington, D.C., this weekend. That's because there are multiple rallies - one supporting President Trump, another will see Juggalos - that's as followers of the band the Insane Clown Posse are known. Juggalos taking to the streets - and one noise they are all likely to hear is this.

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KELLY: That would be a garbage truck. NPR's Neda Ulaby explains why the garbage truck is on the cutting edge of law enforcement.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: You can probably guess why garbage trucks are being used as giant mobile barriers.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTORS: Go home Nazis. (Clapping).

ULABY: This sound could be from Charlottesville, Va., but it's not. It's from another, similar protest from just last weekend in Vancouver, Wash. A big black truck bore down on protesters marching against a right-wing rally.

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UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTOR: Oh, my God.

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ULABY: This tape's from the website of a local TV station, KGW. Fortunately, the truck veered at the very last minute.

DANIEL LINSKEY: More and more, we are seeing attacks, both in the U.S. and abroad, where vehicles are utilized.

ULABY: Daniel Linskey is a retired Boston Police Department superintendent and chief. Now he works for a security management firm called Kroll Associates. He still worries about cars running into crowds of people.

LINSKEY: The Nice, France, attack - we've seen the attacks in Germany. We've seen the attacks in Spain. I think right now, they're top of mind to law enforcement officials.

ULABY: Linskey was the incident commander during the Boston Marathon bombings. Increasingly, he's seen police departments deploy garbage trucks and sand trucks. He says it's a national trend. Police in Centerville, Ohio, deployed a dozen garbage trucks during a recent white nationalist protest - same in Berkeley, Calif. Even the Trump Tower in Manhattan has been encircled by trucks.

LINSKEY: And they're effective because they are heavy duty. A lot of things can push up against them, but very few, if any, are going to move them.

ULABY: And it makes sense, Linskey says, to cooperate with public works.

LINSKEY: It's definitely a way to utilize existing resources in an effective, efficient manner and supplement law enforcement's ability to keep people safe.

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Cheering).

ULABY: That's sound from the Washington, D.C., Women's March last January. Mia Ives-Rublee was an organizer. She has attended at least 10 marches and protests this year.

MIA IVES-RUBLEE: I've been to a couple of protests where there've been agitated car drivers, and it can get scary out there.

ULABY: Ives-Rublee says six bills pending in state legislatures would protect drivers who hit protesters, including in North Carolina, where she lives.

IVES-RUBLEE: It's in the House right now. It is definitely a worry.

ULABY: As an activist who uses a wheelchair, Mia Ives-Rublee says she can brace against a garbage truck in a crowd situation - a truck that can also be moved quickly to accommodate ambulances. And she'd prefer to see ordinary garbage trucks used for crowd control over, for example, tanks. Daniel Linskey says, still, there is no way to completely protect protesters from the people who want to drive into them.

LINSKEY: And it's unfortunate we live in a society where we even have to think about protecting everyone all the time. But the best way we can defeat those who use these tactics is to come out for those big events, fill the streets, fill the sports stadium, fill the arena.

ULABY: And while you're out there, spare a thought, says Linskey - not just for the garbage trucks drafted as police vehicles, but the ones that clean up behind us every day. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.