Tear gas, other riot-control weapons have injured 119K people around the world since 2015, report says

Streaming HUBMarch 25, 2023

Worldwide, more than 119,000 people have been injured by tear gas and other chemical irritants and nearly 2,000 by “less lethal” impact projectiles since 2015, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The study, conducted by Physicians for Human Rights and the International Network of Civil Liberties Organization in collaboration with the Omega Research Foundation, took 2 1/2 years to research. It provides a rare partial count of casualties compiled from the medical literature from these devices used by police around the world, including at Black Lives Matter protests in Colombia, Chile, Hong Kong, Turkey and the United States.

The report’s lead author, Rohini Haar, an emergency room specialist, said most of the data comes from cases in which a person came to an emergency room with an injury from a crowd control weapon and the attending physician or hospital staff failed to document it. Tried Physician and researcher at the University of California School of Public Health in Berkeley.

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Reports of casualties from the largely unregulated industry cite alarming developments in the more powerful and indiscriminate design and deployment of crowd-control devices, including the firing of tear gas from drones.

It calls for a ban on rubber bullets and multi-projectile devices in all crowd-control settings, and stricter restrictions on weapons that can be used indiscriminately, such as tear gas, acoustic weapons and water cannons, which In some cases are full of colors. and chemical irritants.

US Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, said the report underscored serious issues.

“These troubling global numbers echo the concerns I raised locally when Donald Trump first provided no guidance on the use of armed troops near schools in Portland in 2020 and against protesters when most were peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights,” Wyden said. “The report’s recommendations deserve consideration by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Portland, Oregon, was a hotbed of racial justice protests following the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Police and protesters clashed, with officers firing tear gas, pepper spray and other equipment, turning parts of the city into a battlefield.

Demonstrators run back from tear gas during a Black Lives Matter protest on July 23, 2020 in Portland, Oregon.

Demonstrators run back from tear gas during a Black Lives Matter protest on July 23, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Then-President Trump sent militarized federal agents to protect federal property and violence escalated, with officers beating protesters with batons and dousing the crowd with tear gas and other irritants. Bystanders and nearby residents suffocated from the smoke, their eyes watering and burning.

Terry Vallow Strauss, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau, said the department’s updated policy emphasizes “the goal of avoiding the use of force whenever possible.”

Police say that if used properly, crowd control devices are an effective tool to disperse rioters.

“Rallies basically get out of control when they’re hijacked by individuals who have come with an nefarious purpose to create riots, looting, those kinds of things. And then, obviously, law enforcement has to get involved in it.” Have to come and try them.” Best to make a safe resolution and try to restore order,” Park City, Utah, Police Chief Wade Carpenter said during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests.

Carpenter is also an officer of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which has more than 32,000 members in more than 170 countries. The group declined to comment on the new report. But in 2019, it recommended guidelines on crowd management.

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Pepper spray, or oleoresin capsicum, may be used against “specific persons engaged in unlawful conduct or actively resisting arrest, or as required in a defensive capacity”. “OC spray should not be used indiscriminately against groups of people where bystanders would be unduly affected, or against passively resistant individuals.”

But the internet abounds with instances in which pepper spray was used against non-protesting people, including Tyr Nichols, who was beaten to death by Memphis police in January.

IACP guidance states that tear gas “may be deployed defensively to prevent injury when lesser force alternatives are either not available or would be ineffective.” Projectiles that are supposed to hit a surface like a roadway before impacting a person “may be used in civil disturbances where life is in immediate danger or the need to use the equipment outweighs the potential risks.”

Guidance states that direct-fire impact munitions, including beanbag rounds, “may be used during civil disturbances against specific persons who pose an immediate risk of death or serious injury.” Protesters were blinded and suffered brain damage from the beanbag rounds.

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Several cases have been registered regarding the use of force by the police during the protests.

In November, the city of Portland reached a $250,000 settlement with five protesters in a federal lawsuit over police use of tear gas and other crowd-control equipment during racial justice protests.

But last month, a federal judge rejected a claim of excessive force against an unnamed federal agent who fired an impactful bullet into the forehead of protester Donavan La Bella, fracturing his skull, as he attended a racial justice demonstration in Portland. A music speaker was held during. In 2020. La Bella is battling a serious head injury.

Haar, who is a medical consultant for Physicians for Human Rights, said the number of injured was much higher than what he had compiled from medical reports.

“Basically, we knew we were capturing the tip of the iceberg,” she said. “This is a tiny fraction of what the world is experiencing on a daily basis. The vast majority of injuries – even significant serious injuries – go unreported.”

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