Police 'Tank' Spurs Wild Speculation at Occupy Tampa Rally

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The "Rescue 2" parked at the Occupy Tampa protest.

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The "Rescue 2" parked at the Occupy Tampa protest.

FIRST PERSON | TAMPA, Fla. -- The police department's Tactical Response Team (TRP) rolled out a tank at the Occupy Tampa protest today at Curtis Hixon Park in downtown.

The purpose of the vehicle was unclear and its presence immediately sparked wide speculation among the protestors. I have to admit that when I first saw the tank, it felt ominous and an extreme measure.

But then I took a closer look.

The tank, it turns out, was actually a rescue vehicle. It does not have any weapons on it and the side is clearly labeled "Rescue 2." Its full name is Amphibious Rescue Vehicle -- "Rescue 2" and it goes by the nickname "High-Top Shoe." Despite its somewhat menacing appearance, it is just a vehicle that's built tough for transporting people in extreme conditions and circumstances.

According to the city of Tampa's website, "Rescue 2" is a "12-ton Armored Personnel Carrier (APC)… can be used for search and rescue during a natural disaster or terrorist attack."

Perhaps the TPD was anticipating a riot and wanted to have the vehicle present in case people needed to be safely transported away from the scene. Another likely reason may be that the police simply wanted to psychologically intimidate protestors to deter the possibility of things getting out of hand.

Despite all this information, which can easily be found online with a little research, protestors are still jumping to wild conclusions about the vehicle. On the Occupy Tampa Facebook page, a handful of people have left comments that liken the presence of the vehicle to the events that took place at Tiananmen Square. Considering that Tiananmen Square was an all-out blood bath that involved armed soldiers, Type 59 battle tanks, and resulted in the deaths of possibly thousands, I would call the comparison far-off and extreme.

An armored rescue vehicle parked next to otherwise lackluster and uneventful protest can in no way be compared to what might be one of the most horrible events to take place in the past 100 years.

I have to admit I'm really surprised that so many of the protestors are making such silly conjectures, implying that the tank might be used violently against the protestors, or that the TPD are so afraid of them they need to hide behind a tank. I was under the impression that Occupy protestors have developed a reputation for being well-informed. Apparently, a large number of the Occupy Tampa's supporters can't be bothered to do a little research when they see something they don't understand.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get any comments from any TPD officers on the "Rescue 2" and why they felt the need to bring out to the protest.

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