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Repression Conference Planned for Dublin in October

 
Some Background on the Nature and Function of ‘Less Lethal’ Weapons On Tuesday October the 19th and Wednesday October the 20th a conference on ‘less lethal’ weapons is taking place in the Berkeley Court Hotel in Dublin. Organised by defence industry magazine Janes, the conference features representatives of the police, military, scientific and industrial sectors. This article is a backgrounder on the nature and function of ‘less lethal’ weapons. On Tuesday October the 19th and Wednesday October the 20th a conference on ‘less lethal’ weapons is taking place in the Berkeley Court Hotel in Dublin. Organised by defence industry magazine Janes, the conference features representatives of the police, military, scientific and industrial sectors. This article from a regular Indymedia contributor is a backgrounder on the nature and function of ‘less lethal’ weapons. Extract: ‘Less Lethal’ weapons allow the state the use of force in ‘public order’ situations, and thus make repression far more likely. This can be particularly seen in the United States where innumerable demonstrations are pepper sprayed, for such things as marching into the wrong street. The issue of state legitimacy is crucial to the development of ‘less lethal’ weapons, openly referred to in planning documents as the ‘CNN factor’ or in the Berkeley Court conference as ‘the social feel good factor’. To illustrate this consider how plastic and rubber baton rounds allowed elements of State forces in the North of Ireland to inflict ‘collective punishment’ on working class Catholic communities. “There was a riot, we fired plastic bullets” is a lot more sellable then the older version of collective punishment – house burnings. Article continues at 'Feature continued on newswire' link below RELATED MATERIALS Janes Dublin Conference Programme An Appraisal of technologies of Political Control: STOA Draft for European Parliament Pain Merchants: Amnesty International FULL TEXT OF ARTICLE AS SUBMITTED TO INDYMEDIA NEWSWIRE On Tuesday October the 19th and Wednesday October the 20th a conference on ‘less lethal’ weapons is taking place in the Berkeley Court Hotel in Dublin. Organised by defence industry magazine Janes, the conference features representatives of the police, military, scientific and industrial sectors. This article is a backgrounder on the nature and function of ‘less lethal’ weapons. What are ‘less lethal’ weapons? The first thing they are not, is, generally speaking, a reduction of the force used by the state, they are not an alternative to lethal force, but a new means of coercion, usable in situations where lethal force is not. They are also not safe, not non-dangerous and not non-lethal. They are above all else the tools of political repression, above all used to suppress dissent in ‘public order’ situations. They allow the state to use force in contexts where otherwise it could not. It’s a simple arithmetic, it takes far more police, far more time and far more effort to clear a crowd by hand and baton than it does with gas, pepper spray or plastic bullets. This alternative is also far less dangerous to the police, giving them a decided advantage over an unarmed crowd. Without ‘less lethal’ weapons there is the prospect of getting into hand to hand combat, inefficient and where the police can lose, or using live ammunition, often impossible due to the massive political cost this would inflict on the legitimacy of the state. Thus in this context force is not an attractive option when dealing with a strike, unruly demonstration or mass direct action. The cards are held by the populace rather than the police, at least to a degree. ‘Less Lethal’ weapons allow the state the use of force in ‘public order’ situations, and thus make repression far more likely. This can be particularly seen in the United States where innumerable demonstrations are pepper sprayed, for such things as marching into the wrong street. The issue of state legitimacy is crucial to the development of ‘less lethal’ weapons, openly referred to in planning documents as the ‘CNN factor’ or in the Berkeley Court conference as ‘the social feel good factor’. To illustrate this consider how plastic and rubber baton rounds allowed elements of State forces in the North of Ireland to inflict ‘collective punishment’ on working class Catholic communities. “There was a riot, we fired plastic bullets” is a lot more sellable then the older version of collective punishment – house burnings. Similarly it is often the case with these weapons that the mode of violence obscures the extent of violence, tear gas for instance looks a lot less heavy than batoning. Their much rarer battlefield applications are conditioned by similar concerns. The incapacitating gas used in the Moscow theatre hostage siege to murderous effect in October 2002 was developed for use in war. Plans were made to use incapacitating gas for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and tear gas was used during the Vietnam war. This is simply because gas is useful to clear tunnels and bunker complexes but, due to the horrendous injuries inflicted by the like of mustard gas in the First World War, it has a major political cost associated with it. Hence new improved chemical warfare that doesn’t kill (or does in fact as it still has teething problems). Incapacitating gas renders it’s victims unconscious and is different from irritant chemicals used in ‘public order’ situations. A lesser ‘legitimate’ use for ‘less lethal’ weapons, particularly the electric variety, is in controlling prisons, pepper spray and electro shields and belts are widely used in American prisons. Often allowing guards a more easily hidden way of torturing inmates. Which brings us to the principal ‘illegitimate’ use of these weapons - as torture instruments. The use of electric devices for torture is rife worldwide, being particularly prevalent in China, where many of them are manufactured. The use of ‘less lethal’ weapons in situations where otherwise live ammunition would be used, as an alternative to lethal force, is far far less common. Only one such weapon, the L21A1 baton round, the British state’s latest variation on the plastic/rubber bullet theme, has been used exclusively in situations with criminal suspects where otherwise live ammunition would used. Bear in mind that this weapon has only been issued for a couple of years so it may be used in ‘public order’ yet, and that legitimacy comes into play here too, as it was introduced after a number of controversial shootings of innocent and/or unarmed persons. In other usage in ‘normal policing’ gas sprays and the like basically function as a possibly more violent up-dating of the normal baton. The following is a review of the uses and effects of less lethal weapons, don’t get too scared, although they can be effective in breaking up desultory protests they have never been effective in suppressing any sustained popular revolt. For that politics has to be used. In regard to the most widely used ‘less lethal’ weapons, – chemicals weapons like tear gas and pepper spray, effective counter measures have been developed. Chemical Weapons: These being the most widely used variety of so-called ‘less lethal’ weapons, particularly widespread being ‘tear gas’. This was first used for crowd control in France in the early part of the last centaury. These can, and are, also used for torture, in that it can be sprayed upon arrestees or into confined spaces such as prison cells. The chemicals can be delivered by both projectiles – cartridges or grenades as well as backpack sprays and hand held aerosols. ‘Tear gas’ actually comes in a couple of different forms, which vary greatly in potency. The most popular being CS gas, which causes respiratory irritation, pain in the nose and chest, a burning sensation in the eyes and on moist skin and with more extensive exposure coughing and vomiting. CS gas is a compound which includes chlorobenzene , described by Dr. Raymond McClean as “a well known industrial poison which could cause damage to the brain, the liver and the kidneys”, another of it’s components, malonic acid, has caused fatalities in industry. CS gas accentuates illness when inflicted on sufferers of bronchitis, asthma, liver or kidney diseases and epilepsy, and according to the findings of an official committee set up after the 1969 Derry riots it can cause deaths from heart failure. It has also been associated with second degree burns and respiratory illness. CR gas is six times more potent than CS gas, and has been issued to police forces in the U.K. since 1973. Much more of a skin irritant than CS gas, high exposure produces temporary blindness. This was used in the townships under Apartheid in the late 1980’s, and there it caused fatalities, particularly among children. Hand held gas irritant sprays have been issued to police in a number of E.U. states. This is a far more dangerous weapon than the cartridges, the determining factor being the extent of the exposure, it’s one thing to have tear gas fired at a crowd in open air on a street, another on one person at close quarters, especially in a cell or handcuffs. CS and it’s earlier weaker cousin CN are believed to have caused hundreds of deaths in the Vietnam war as their victims were in the confined spaces of tunnel complexes. According to Professor Jean Claud Roujeau of the Hospital Henri Mondor in Paris “we have seen, in the last few years, several cases of patients suffering from severe skin reactions to these spray. These reactions look like acute burns, they are very spectacular and sometimes need hospitalisation for several days, and can reach 10 – 20 per cent of the body surface area of the patient. It is generally agreed that above 20 per cent there is risk of death, so I think it impossible to consider these products as generally safe and harmless.” Potency is also variable according to the particular solutions in the spray – with that of the CS spray in France and the U.K. 25 times stronger than it’s equivalent in the U.S. OC or pepper spray is the latest instalment of this series and is considered more dangerous than either CR or CS. Pepper spray, as it’s name suggests, appears to only come in the spray form. It’s particularly popular with the police and prison service of the United States. There the Los Angeles Times has reported at least 61 deaths associated with it’s use in it’s first five years (1990 – 1995). ‘Associated’ in that fatalities are the product of a number of contributing factors, i.e. the victim’s drug use or medical problems or breathing inhibiting police restraints as well as pepper spray. OC can cause temporary blindness, for up to 30 minutes, a burning sensation on skin, for up to one hour, upper body spasms and coughing which inhibits breathing and speaking. In the EU it is used in the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, Germany, Switzerland, and it’s on trial use in Britain. There have been cases of it’s use as a torture instrument in American prisons. Pepper spray is widely used to suppress demonstrations, for instance in New York on February 15th 2003, during the international day of protest against the Iraq war, and on innumerable other occasions. It’s advantage to the police is that it doesn’t blow back on them as can happen with firing tear gas shells. Here is the police in Portland, Oregon, spraying a critical mass bike ride, a Bush protest and supporters of locked-out dock workers: http://www.portlandcopwatch.org/PPR28/bushppr28.html Here is a variety of weapons being used on the crowd at a free Rage Against the Machine concert: http://www.sparklehouse.com/awake/cp/gas_3.html The pepperspraying of anti-war protestors in Pittsburgh in March 2003: http://staughton.indypgh.org/news/2003/03/3928_comment.php Remember tear gas when delivered via cartridge can also be used as a kinetic projectile, i.e. something which flies through the air and hits you, as with plastic and rubber bullets, it was used in this fashion in Northern Ireland in the late 60’s and early 70’s and in Genoa in July 2001. We will be turning to these sorts of weapons later. Electro shock weapons: On Wednesday October 20th at 11.30 a.m. in the Berkeley Court Hotel in Dublin you can hear Tom Smith, president of Taser International Inc. speak on “research into the effects of electrical less-lethal weaponry”. These offer the most telling revelation about the nature of the security wing of the arms industry. Crude electronic devices, in wartime Europe, and electric cattle prods, in Latin America, were used as torture instruments long before the private sector took the idea up, commercialised it and mass produced electro shock batons. Helen Bamber, director of the British Medical Foundation for the Treatment of the Victims of Torture described them as “the most universal modern tool of the torturers”. They are extensively used and manufactured in China. A series of Dispatches documentaries in the mid-90’s showed how British companies supplied these to repressive regimes around the world. This included the supply of 8,000 German made electro shock batons to Saudi Arabia by the Royal Ordnance division of British Aerospace as part of the multi-billion pound Al Yamamah (‘The Dove’) arms deals of the late 1980’s. These deals were brokered at the highest level of government, and subsidised by export credit guarantees. Incidentally Spiddal based company CTL, which grew up as an off shot of NUI Galway, which is supported by state agency Údarás na Gaeltachta and whose director is Conchœr Ó Brádaigh, lecturer in NUI Galway and member of it’s academic council, has a major research project on going with British Aerospace. British Aerospace are one of the largest arms companies in the world. Ruairi O Bradaigh boss of Republican Sinn Fein is this chap’s father. Other variations on the electro shock theme are electric shields, which are much as the batons, only in shield form, and electro shock belts, which are fixed to a prisoner’s waist and remote controlled. The later are used in 30 state prisons and all federal trial courts in the United States. They have even been used to administer shocks at the behest of judges on defendants conducting their own defence and failing to adhere to a judge’s ruling. Amnesty International has identified over 90 countries where electro shock torture has been used since 1990. Tasers, manufactured by the aforementioned Mr. Tom Smith, speaking in Dublin on October 20th, have been in use in the U.S. since the 1970’s. The M26 Advanced Taser is a handgun which fires two barbed darts up to seven meters, the darts are attached by wires to the gun, and along those wires travels a 50,000 volt electric shock to the victim, after firing the gun itself can function as an electro shock baton. They have recently been issued to British police. A 1990 inquiry commissioned by the British Home Office found that an average discharge from an electro shock weapon after half a second repels the victim, after one to two seconds the victim cannot stand up and after three to five seconds the victim will lose skeletal muscle control and be paralysed for up to 15 minutes. Kinetic Projectiles: At 9.15 a.m. on the 20th of October in Berkeley Court Hotel speakers from Cranfield University Royal Military College of Science will speak on “investigation into the target impact of less lethal projectiles”. Following on from Major Steve James, Springfield Police Department, Missouri, who is speaking the day before on “training, deployment and injury risk related to impact rounds”. The record of rubber bullets, used in the north until 1974/75, and their replacement, plastic bullets, speaks for itself: “On the 10th August 1980 Michael Donnelly was walking up Leeson Street in the Falls Road area of Belfast. He was hit with a plastic bullet fired by British soldiers. Michael Donnelly was a social worker and had just came off duty in the Ballymurphy Community Centre. Eyewitnesses claimed he was walking up the street and was within 15 – 20 yards from the British Army when they fired a plastic bullet at him. It hit him on the chest and he died shortly afterwards. People who tried to help him were fired on as well. No one was charged.” “Carol Anne Kelly aged 12 years was fatally wounded by a British Army patrol, hit on the side of the head by a plastic bullet, a short distance from her home at Twinbrook on 19th May 1981. She was returning home from a message to a local shop and was carrying a carton of milk in her hand. Residents and witnesses are adamant that there was no rioting at the time or place where Carol Anne was hit. She received extensive head injuries and died on Friday 22nd May.” “Nora McCabe aged 30 years, from Linden Street, died in the Royal Victoria Hospital on the 9th July 1981 from head injuries sustained when she was hit at point blank range by a plastic bullet fired by an RUC man from his Land Rover. She had walked down Linden Street to get cigarettes with her friend, after hearing that Joe McDonnell had died on hunger strike. Two RUC Land Rovers came up the Falls Road and one turned into Linden Street while the other remained on the Falls. The first one stopped half way into Linden Street and an RUC man firing from a range of six feet hit Nora McCabe on the head. She was not involved in any disturbance. Nora left behind a husband and three little children Paul (7) Jim (2) and Anne Marie (3 months).” “On the 28th August 1975 Stephen Geddis aged 10 was struck on the side of the head with a plastic bullet. The Geddis family are completely non-political and young Stephen knew little of the complex situation around him. This family were protective and anxious that he would not get caught up in any trouble. He died on 30th August.” In all 3 people were killed by rubber bullets and 14 by plastic bullets, most deaths appear to be around the time of the hunger strikes, and thousands of people have been injured by them. In 1999 the Patten Commission into policing in the north recommended the ending of the use of plastic bullets. In 2001 the British government introduced a new baton round across the U.K., one more dangerous than it’s plastic bullet predecessor. Other variations of the baton round include wooden bullets, used in the United States, rubber coated steel bullets used in the Israel and the occupied territories, one version of which consists of, in each shot, 15 rubber balls each with a steel core which hit a target area 7 meters across. These are obviously used to hit crowds indiscriminately. A Belgian manufactured weapon used in Switzerland fires metal and plastic containers containing paint, and left one woman with fragments embedded in her face, which cannot be removed for fear of paralysis. So there is now a wide variety of successors to the old rubber bullet. Science Fiction Weapons: These are some things which are mostly still in the ‘research and development’ stage, don’t get too scared some of them have been languishing there since the 1970’s. Human capture nets, which can be electrified or laced with chemical irritant. Foam guns, which stick the target to the ground. Foam barriers, which can be laced with chemical irritant. Sleeping inducing chemicals. Strobes which pulse in the critical epileptic fit inducing frequency. Radio frequency weapons which use microwaves to raise the victim’s temperature. UV lasers which enable an electric charge to be sent across some distance through the air. Sources: ‘The Road to Bloody Sunday’, Dr Raymond McClean, the author was a doctor in Derry active in the civil rights movement who researched the effects of CS gas. A research aided by the fact he was working for Du Pont and thus knew something of hazardous chemicals, and by the fact he was given leaked research documents on the gas from Porton Down, the British military laboratories and weapons testing facility where it was developed. ‘Silent Too Long’, Association of the families of innocent victims of Loyalist, UDR, RUC and British Army violence. ‘The Pain Merchants, Security equipment and it’s use in torture and other ill-treatment’, Amnesty International. ‘An appraisal of the technologies of political control’, Steve Wright, the Omega Foundation. ‘The Arabian Connection: UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia’ http://www.caat.org.uk/information/publications/countries/saudi-arabia.php ‘Back on the Torture Trail’, transcript of Dispatches documentary, http://www.privacy.org/pi/reports/big_bro/dispatches.html http://www.indymedia.ie/attachments/aug2004/taser

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