Tag Archives: Tear Gas

Tear gas is NOT nonlethal: ways to resist US tear gas shipments

Five years ago today, Tristan Anderson, from Oakland, California was critically wounded in the Palestinian village of Ni’lin after Israeli forces shot him in the head with a high-powered tear-gas canister as Israeli forces attacked a demonstration against the construction of the annexation wall through the village of Ni’lin’s land. 

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Berkin Elvan

Since Tuesday, Turkey has once again been filled with popular protest against government repression following the death and funeral of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who suffered a blow to the head from a tear gas canister during last summer’s Gezi Park uprising while he was buying bread in Istanbul. He had been in a coma since last June. People in the streets yesterday in protests that erupted in 32 towns were met yet again with a massive amount of tear gas and pepper spray.

The Facing Tear Gas campaign stands in solidarity with the people of Palestine and Turkey in their struggle against repression and militarization and the friends and family of activists who have been killed or injured while supporting these struggles. We wonder how many people will be hurt and killed before we stop calling tear gas a “nonlethal” weapon? In the way of offering something concrete, though small, to these movements, we send a reminder about US government support to repressive regimes globally and ways to resist tear gas and other weapons shipments from inside the US, since US tear gas has been used against people around the world, including in Palestine and Turkey.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, President Obama said, “The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations but who work with us on our core interests.” The US government gives military aid to governments and regimes, regardless of their human rights record, if it’s in the best interests of the state. No surprise there.

What you might not know is the link between the US weapons manufacturers and the US government and how tear gas and other weapons get from the US into the hands of other repressive governments throughout the world.

We compiled some of the trusted research that has been done about US tear gas shipments for a quick guide to US tear gas shipments and possible ways to resist. Thanks goes to our friends with Adalah-NY and the Global Justice Working Group of Occupy Wall Street and to journalists Anjali Kamat and Nicole Salazar for the bulk of this information. The “how to resist” section comes out of our 2 years of work on this issue through the Facing Tear Gas campaign.

How does tear gas get from American manufacturers to various governments overseas?

You could see it as a sort of triangular relationship between the U.S. government, U.S. corporations, and other governments. These three points are always involved. One thing to emphasize here is the complicity between state and corporate interests: government policies actively work in war profiteers’ favor.

Here are some of the ways by which tear gas moves from manufacturers to clients in different countries. The U.S. government’s role usually consists of one or more of the following: authorizing a sale, arranging a sale, subsidizing it, or funding it directly with taxpayer money:

First, some tear gas is transferred between governments through Foreign Military Sales, overseen by the Pentagon. The State Dept. can approve, reject, or halt any purchase. In 2012, the fiscal year racked up $69.1 billion in foreign military sales, including massive sales to the Israeli and Egyptian governments. The amount of military hardware shipped to Egypt actually increased in 2013.

Second, through Foreign Military Financing, another form of US military aid, The U.S. government does more than just approve sales. American taxpayers directly finance foreign governments’ purchases of U.S. military products via “military aid”—essentially grants and loans to foreign governments for arms purchases. In most cases, financing is available only for the sale of U.S.-made products. So, in effect, these are taxpayer-financed subsidies of private weapons manufacturers and defense contractors. In some exceptions, a recipient country can use the a limited portion of the aid to fund purchases of its own domestic products–this is the case with Israel. In 2007, the Bush Administration and the Israeli government agreed to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package spanning from Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 to Fiscal Year 2018. During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Obama pledged that the United States would continue to provide Israel with multi-year commitments of military aid subject to the approval of Congress Israel currently receives $3.1 billion annually in Foreign Military Financing.

Finally, there are purchases negotiated directly between the client country and the manufacturer, though Direct Commercial Sales (DCS). The U.S. State Department approves each and every one of these. Compared to Foreign Military Sales (FMS), this route is usually quicker, sometimes cheaper and always entails less government oversight. In addition, the State Department is much less transparent about DCS than the Pentagon is about FMS. Minimal information about price and quantity is classified as “confidential business information” and kept from the public. This secrecy undermines the ability of Congress and the interested press and public to exercise proper oversight on industry-direct arms transfers. The existence of these two separate programs also makes gaining an accurate count of arms exports in a given year exceedingly difficult. This is the best information we have: The top DCS totals for fiscal 2009: Egypt ($458,000 for tear gas and other riot control agents, $101 million total); Israel ($1.05 million for tear gas and other riot control agents, $602.6 million total); and Kuwait ($1.24 million for tear gas and other riot control agents, $923 million total).

Even when it’s a commercial sale, tear gas (like any other weapon) is subject to export controls, so U.S.-made tear gas cannot be shipped abroad without government approval.

What are the US companies behind the tear gas industry?

Combined Systems Inc. (CSI):
Combined Systems Inc. (CSI) calls Jamestown, Pennsylvania home. Often marketed and produced under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS), they provide tear gas to the governments of Argentina, East Timor, Cameroon, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Netherlands, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Sierra Leone and most prominently Israel and Egypt. They say that their “OC Vapor System is ideal for forcing subjects from small rooms, attics, crawl spaces, prison cells.”

AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems Inc. (ALS):
AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems Inc. (ALS) (Formerly ALS Technologies Inc.) is based in Bull Shoals, Arkansas (to be moving to Taylor County, Florida in early 2014.) It is a subsidiary of National Presto Industries, which produces kitchen appliances and is especially known for its pressure cooker. Evidence of tear gas canisters it makes has been found in Puduraya, Malaysia.

Defense Technology/Safariland/Federal Laboratories:
Defense Technology and Federal Laboratories merged in 2001. They are owned by the umbrella company Safariland. Safariland was owned by UK weapons conglomerate BAE systems, which owns some 400 other companies, before it was bought by war profiteer Warren B. Kanders (though the sale was held up by the sentencing of a former Safariland executive for bribing government officials in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East in order to secure business). Safariland-made tear gas has been used against people in Egypt, United States, Bahrain, Palestine, Canada, Tunisia, Yemen, Mexico, Turkey, Venezuela among other places.

Nonlethal Technologies:
Nonlethal Technologies is based in Homer City, Pennsylvania. Its tear gas canisters were a regularly used weapon against the uprising in Bahrain until they were forced to stop direct sales or export by an international campaign. Nonlethal Technologies tear gas has been used in Bahrain, Greece and Turkey.

Sage Ordnance Systems Group:
Sage Ordnance Systems Group (Sage International, Ltd. and Sage Control Ordnance) is headquartered in Oscoda, Michigan. Their weapons are used in the United States, among other places.

What are ways to resist US tear gas shipments?

  • Organize targeted actions against the people and companies invested in tear gas production. Kona brand bicycles, for example, is one small US consumer-based company that has chosen to continue to partner with Safariland.
  • Pressure potentially sympathetic members of Congress to call for the implementation of the Leahy Law, which halts military aid to police units that fail to live up to human rights standards.
  • Stop the shipments, either through campaigning for export controls through putting pressure on Congress and/or working with port workers to organize a blockade and/or picket line at the ports where tear gas is shipped abroad. In terms of recent tear gas shipments, the shipping ports have been those of Wilmington, NC and New York & New Jersey.
  • Research the Port of Oakland to see if they ship tear gas and get in touch with Facing Tear Gas with what you find out! Email us at facingteargas@warresisters.org with any questions or go to facingteargas.org.

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What happens when 100 SWAT teams come together?

On Friday, October 25th, more than 100 police and military agencies from California and across the US were joined by their counterparts from Israel, Guam, Bahrain, and Brazil for a massive SWAT team training and weapons expo called Urban Shield. The Facing Urban Shield Action Network, with more than 30 endorsers in the Bay Area, showed up to challenge this convergence and the militarization of police.

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A press conference on Friday included family members of people who have been killed by police, including Dionne Smith-Downs, the mother of James Rivera Jr., who was 16-years-old when he was killed by police in Stockton, CA in 2010 with an assault rifle. Smith-Downs said, “They used an AR-15 assault rifle to kill my son. That’s a military weapon right there. And that has got to stop.” Rivera’s father, Carey Downs, added, “They shot at my son 38 times, 18 into his body. They are using military weapons on our kids in our community—we need to take a lot more action. We are not just fighting for our son but for all of our kids.”

While in Oakland, WRL’s Facing Tear Gas campaign organizers confronted our campaign target, Safariland, whose subsidiary – Defense Technology – has shipped tear gas and other “crowd control” weapons to the governments of Israel, Turkey, Canada, Bahrain, and Mexico, as well as to police forces around the US. Safariland tear gas was used to violently disperse activists at the Occupy Oakland encampment two years ago.

Our rally in front of the Marriott Hotel, host to Urban Shield in downtown Oakland, was followed by a march to Oscar Grant Plaza where Facing Urban Shield supporters joined with Occupy Oakland to mark the second anniversary of the Oakland Police Department crackdown and raid of their encampment.

Press coverage:

Al Jazeera America

Common Dreams

Waging Nonviolence

Salon

Real News Network

KPFA Hard Knock Radio

KPFA News

Daily Kos

Disarmament Activist

Oakland Local

East Bay Express

Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

Dispatches from the Underclass

Sandhya Jha

RT

Aboriginal Press

Occupy Oakland

Opposing Views

IndyBay

Twitchy

Mercury News Photos

CBS Local

Contra Costa Times

ABC KGO Channel 7

CBS

Oakland Tribune/InsideBayArea

KTVU Channel 2

NBC Bay Area

KTXL Fox 40

The End of Passive Revolution in Brazil

brazil-protests-june2013

Source: ibtimes.com

[originally published on June 22nd, 2013 in La Jornada.]

by Massimo Modonesi and translated from Spanish by Linda Quiquivix

The Brazilian experience over the last 10 years under its progressive governments (of first Lula and now Dilma) has been characterized by what Gramsci called “passive revolution:” a modernization process driven from the top, which only partially incorporates the demands of those from below, and is thus able to ensure their passivity and their silence. But not their complicity.

From this apparently contradictory formula we can understand how Brazil built an edifice that was precariously balanced but surprisingly effective and, moreover, durable. Always following the insights of Gramsci, it relied on a progressive “Caesarism” (the presence of a charismatic figure who catalyzed and channeled the tensions and embodied welfare paternalism) and “transformismo” (the displacement of popular movement leaders by incorporating them into conservative positions within state institutions).

Thus, what is striking about the country’s recent history is not today’s sudden eruption of protest, but of its absence in previous years. In fact, Brazil’s leaders have received impressive praise for the country’s high economic growth, its inclusive social policies, and the emergence of an impressive middle class consumership. Brazil has been envied and widely admired for a governance model of social and political control based on welfare programs and the mediation of a party – the Workers Party (PT) – and union – Unified Workers’ Central (CUT) – with massive hold, guaranteeing minimal costs in terms of repression and the criminalization of protest. Those resisting this Lulista hegemony existed and exist as fronts both from the right and from the left, but were contained and were relatively marginalized. This included the Landless Peoples’ Movement (MST), which maintained a cautious attitude of retreat with the exception of some major, but isolated conflicts (such as university strikes and indigenous struggles in defense of territory).

The protests of recent days, then, are inevitably something that was to emerge in the fissures or in the very exhaustion of this passive revolution process. Fissures are mismatches that generate inequalities that continue marking Brazilian society: those gaps that separate social classes in a context of capitalist modernization which, while the size of the pie increases and the slices that are distributed grow, they are ones that accumulate wealth and generate political and social powers that take over productive circuits in public institutions and ideological apparatuses. The governments of the Workers’ Party (PT) held a paradox: they generated oligarchization processes instead of democratizing wealth and opening up spaces for participation – spaces that in the past had themselves served to make this party arise and win elections. The exhaustion of this process is related to physiological wear after 10 years, but above all, it is related to the loss of progressive impulses and the increasingly conservative characteristics of Lula’s social and political coalition, which similarly sustain Dilma’s government today.

It is also not surprising that the protests take diffused forms and are led principally by youth labeled as middle class. The current shape of Brazil’s popular classes includes this youth sector, which has emerged amid the relative social mobility in the past decade – from poverty to higher levels of consumption and education – but were not removed from their placement in the field of working-class (whether blue- or white-collar) which they were born into and on which Brazil’s growth patterns inevitably depend. The protests’ diffuse forms correspond just as much to the rejection of the parties and unions as to a budding construction of new political cultures, in particular those of the so-called indignados (the indignants). These political cultures bring together a number of identities, claims, and diverse forms of struggle that have yet to fully define themselves, but continue to manifest themselves worldwide through a dispersed but recurrent and forceful manner.

With these protests, we are witnessing the end of Brazil’s passive revolution. They have lifted the veil and have shown the contradictory reality and misery hidden behind the myth of the Brazilian miracle, which had functioned decades ago and reappeared in recent years. Moreover, the passivity on which the Lulista hegemony stood now unravels in the streets. People might go back home, the streets might return their calm, and polls might show consensus on the PT model. But the visibility reached once the tear gas began to dissipate is extraordinarily revealing, and will remain etched in the memory of a generation.

U.S. Tear Gas Still on the Streets of Egypt: Honoring Asma Mohammed

Text by Judith Pasternak – translated into Arabic by Ali Issa.

Earlier last week, Egyptians poured out onto the streets across Egypt to protest President Morsi’s dictatorial decree overriding the power of the courts, attempting to keep a heavily Muslim Brotherhood-influenced constitutional assembly in tact, and granting himself seemingly unchecked authority over the nation. This past Friday, pro-democracy protestors poured into Egypt’s streets and pack its many squares again to counter Morsi and his attempts to quickly push through a controversial constitution in spite of popular outcry over his seizure of ultimate control over the Egyptian government.

U.S.-made tear gas has continued to rain down on protesters in Egypt calling for Morsi to reverse his decision as well as on those who filled Mohamed Mahmoud Street to call for justice and accountability for those who were gassed, beaten and murdered there exactly one year ago. Much of the tear gas — then and now — was made in Jamestown, Pa., by Combined Systems Incorporated, the same manufacturer whose seven-ton shipment, approved by U.S. government, was refused on November 27, 2011 by Asma Mohammed and her fellow customs workers at the Port of Adabiya in Suez.

The War Resisters League has awarded Asma Mohammed its 2012 Peace Award, given in the past to activists including Bayard Rustin, Bob Moses and Jeanette Rankin. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the first WRL Peace Award event in 1958.

Mohammed’s refusal of the tear gas shipment from the Port of Wilmington, N.C., came following the unprecedented deployment of thick walls of tear gas against protesters near Tahrir Square during the “battle of Mohamed Mahmoud.” The “battle” on this street near Tahrir, began on Friday, November 18, 2011 and lasted for eight days. During this time, Egyptian riot police killed tens of young men, most of them poor and working class—some estimates of the death toll are as high as 50. Hundreds of thousands of people remained in the square during this time, and volunteers at the makeshift field hospitals in Tahrir for the injured noted that some of the bodies that returned were completely black from the gas, as if they had been burned.

In addition, though Tahrir was a relatively “safe” place during the attacks on people at Mohamed Mahmoud, a new kind of chemical agent was used against people in the square on at least one day in particular. On the spent canisters, protesters read the term “CR,” different from the “CS” gas they normally saw. CR gas was said to cause violent convulsions, unconsciousness, and seizures—something they had never before experienced. It was enough to spark a new macabre and biting chant among the revolutionaries: “asha’ab yureed al-ghaz al-adeem!” (“The people want the return of the old gas!”)

Asma Mohammed, whose act of resistance to tear gas and to US support for the regime led to the formation of the General Independent Union of Port Workers, recalls: “I said ‘No, I refuse — because I don’t want to be the cause of someone’s pain or death.’ So in solidarity with me, or with the cause, my co-workers said ‘No, we’re not going to work on it either.’”

Asma Mohammed and her counterparts in the independent Egyptian labor movement, a key force in the unfolding revolution, have been present in the streets of Egypt over this past week. The protests continue while the tear gas, beatings and repression remain the norm under Morsi’s civilian government, as it was under the Supreme Council of Armed Forces’ military junta. On Tuesday, the Egyptian “Popular Alliance Party” member Fathy Ghareeb died of asphyxiation as a result of tear gas fired in Tahrir Square.

As Morsi tries to justify his takeover with the promise for justice for those killed by government forces on streets including Mohammed Mahmoud, Asma Mohammed recognizes that only the people of Egypt can protect the revolution and calls on the people of the U.S. to join her: “The Arab people now want to be the decision makers. Just as the American people should be the decision makers and affect their government in the decisions it makes. We also want our rulers to know that we are the ones that are going to influence things. And they’re not going to understand that until governments of the world begin to act according to that logic.”

And as the US embassy in Cairo tweeted last Tuesday, “The Egyptian people made clear in the January 25th revolution that they have had enough of dictatorship” while the US continues to send tear gas and military aid to the Egyptian government, the ordinary people of the US must recognize that we are the only ones here who are of any use to the revolution.

For more information about US-made tear gas in Egypt, go to: facingteargas.tumblr.com.

The Québec Strike Continues and Defense Technology’s Repression

On the fourth of May 2012, in Victoriaville, Québec during the congress of the corrupted Liberal party of Jean Charest, several dozens of gas bombs were thrown on families, activists, old people, and students that were protesting against high tuition fees by 75%.” -Hauban from Facing Tear Gas.

Defense Technology tear gas canisters found in Victoriaville, Quebec on May 4th, 2012.

This week, the Québec movement sparked by students striking against tuition hikes, is ramping up the pressure again, as some schools start class today, while “Law 12″ is mandating that students attend and protest has been largely criminalized. The response of the movement though, has been “Back to Class Means Back to Strike!”

As people in the thousands have joined the strikes, protesters have faced huge amounts of police repression, supported in part by US-based corporations. Defense Technology, headquartered in Casper, Wyoming, produces tear gas used against the Québec movement. This manufacturer is a subsidiary of  Safariland, now owned by prominent war profiteer Warren B. Kanders, based in Southern Connecticut (though the sale was held up by the sentencing of a former Safariland exec for bribing government officials in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East in order to secure business). Safariland holds monthly trainings for cops, prison officers, private security personnel, and active-duty soldiers across the U.S. in how to use this Chemical Weapon.  Defense Technology tear gas has been used against Occupy Oakland, the ongoing Yemeni movement for change, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, as well as against protestors in Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia. Between 3,000-5,000 canisters of Safariland tear gas were also used against protesters at the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Québec City. (For updates and action alerts on tear gas use in Québec and around the world, sign up on our e-mail list, and for more on WRL’s storytelling project and campaign against tear gas visit: http://www.warresisters.org/facingteargas.)

But how did the movement in Québec begin?

In March, Québec’s Premier, Jean Charest, announced a 75% tuition hike for all public university students.

Many current university students in Québec are first generation college students. Most of them are working their way through college—a dramatic tuition hike means taking on a second job or enormous amounts of debt.

Many students decided to go on strike—abstaining from attending their universities en masse to protest the hikes. Students pinned red squares to their lapels—or wore them as earrings or face paint—taking to the streets, demanding negotiations to end the tuition hikes.

Students—now protesters—would take to the streets each night—banging pots and pans (les casseroles)—chanting “Manif chaque soir, jusqu’a la victoire”- Protest every night, until victory.

When it became undeniable that the students were serious, the now notorious Montreal Police (SPVM) began implementing the Emergency “Law 78”—a law that actively criminalized unannounced gatherings of more than 50 people.

Law 78 transformed what was once a student strike into a popular movement. Solidarity actions erupted throughout the world. Though to others a $1625 tuition hike seemed cheap in comparison to other attacks on public education, police repression and criminalizing of the people’s voice was something that echoed throughout the world.

On the last nights in May, more than 400,000 marched through the streets of Montreal.

The police responded with violent force—using smoke bombs, stun grenades and teargas to intimidate the crowds and make mass arrests. Protesters were beaten, shot and in some cases hospitalized and permanently injured. Journalists trying to get into Montréal to report on the movement were detained at the border. Anyone wearing the carré rouge in public—even if they weren’t at a protest—was subject to police interrogation.

It became clear that the police were trying to crush, intimidate and silence the movement and would use any means available to them. It was also clear that the police were the soldiers of the state–a state which has a neoliberal agenda motivated by profit that has no interest in serving the people.

It became clear that—like so many police forces throughout the world—they were willing to beat, gas and silence them into submission.

Now, it is August. On August 13th—today—the first of the Québec public universities will resume classes. However, in the words of the student strikers, “la grève continue!”

What does this mean for us and our solidarity work with other movements against police brutality—both domestically and internationally? In Québec, three groups—La CLASSE, L’association des jurists progressites (Association of Progressive Lawyers) and La lingues des droits et libertés (League of Rights and Liberties) are organizing to gather testimonies of police violence—the beatings, gassings and arrests and the unwanted aggressive interrogations and refusals of access to public space because of their affiliation with the movement—and use them as a popular, public request to the police to hold them accountable for their behavior.

This is la palais de justice – a large courthouse in Montreal, Québec. The “lai” is covered , reading “pas de justice” which means: “NO JUSTICE.”