Above photo: Demonstrators in Washington DC on May 31, 2020. By Koshu Kunii on Unsplash.
In response to the murder of George Floyd by a member of the Minneapolis police department on 25th May, thousands of people across the United States joined protests demanding justice for his killing, radical reform of police forces, and driving home the message that Black Lives Matter. Many of these protests face militarised police responses, including the use of rubber bullets, sting balls, stun grenades, battons, police charges, and chemical weapons like tear gas and pepper spray.
Twitter users have photographed a large number of canisters that were fired during the protest. Many appear to have been produced by a company called Defense Technology, a subsidiary of a company called The Safariland Group (click here for our profile on this company), which owns a number of companies producing a wide range of equipment and weapons used by law enforcement. Weapons from other companies appear to be produced by Combined Tactical Systems (our profile on CTS is available here) and FN Herstal USA.
A number of photos show clear markings from a range of projectiles produced by Defense Technology. For example, the markings on this canister are similar to a “Skat Shell” CS gas canister.
This was a canister from the tear gas they shot at me last night. I have a bunch of pics and video clips on my camera too, but they’re mostly of the actual people protesting and not of the police. All pics I will post will be done with explicit permission. #BLM pic.twitter.com/yOijpaBCO2
— Jacob Hale (@verser43) June 1, 2020
This tweet posted on 5th June 2020 clearly shows two different used canisters, one a “Skat Shell” loaded with OC gas, and a “Spede-Heat” long range CS gas shell. The CS shell in this image is designed to be fired up to 150 yards.
In case anybody thinks the CS tear gas & OC gas canisters @wusa9 found were unused- take a look. CS gas canister is to the left in 2nd pic. Propellant powder still on interior walls. pic.twitter.com/R7yieB8ioO
— Nathan Baca (@NathanBacaTV) June 5, 2020
Very relieved that the unexploded flash-bang grenade that my daughter found and innocently picked up this morning didn't explode in her face. Beyond angry that it was left on the streets of our capital city. pic.twitter.com/ruAQ7dCotC
— Ed Felten (@EdFelten) June 2, 2020
The following tweets show a spent hand-thrown grenade produced by another company, Combined Tactical Systems. The first is a 5230B Baffled Riot CS Smoke grenade.
For those who have been asking, the type of gas the police have used is called "OC Gas." Police Chief just told me that "tear gas" is not an official term. It's basically a slang word. There's your answer.
— Chris Seelbach (@ChrisSeelbach) June 3, 2020
The second is a 5440 “Launchable Flameless Expulsion OC” round, apparently used on Capital Hall.
— Shawn Whiting (@shawncwhiting) June 8, 2020
A number of users posted images that appear similar to “less-lethal” projectiles made by the USA subsidiary of the Belgian company FN Herstal. The company produces a range of weapons that can be loaded with a number of different projectiles some loaded with washable or indelible paint, or OC powder. The company advertises the “primary effect” of all of the projectiles as “trauma, which directly neutralizes the aggressor”.
Bingo! They weren’t shooting rubber bullets in Charleston. They were shooting FN303s, the kind with Oleoresin capsicum, while also pepper gassing / tear gassing them. The media was targeted too; kid in Indiana had his eye shot out by a tear gas canister shot at his face. pic.twitter.com/axCh4gC7lF
— Whiskey & Wombs (@SoOvaryActing) June 3, 2020
Stopped by the Capitol yesterday to see what he National Guard and/or GA State Police were firing at us on Tuesday at 7:11pm. Found these. pic.twitter.com/etNmo6pMCR
— recklesscoder (@recklesscoder) June 4, 2020
This final tweet appears to also show part of a Triple-Chaser CS gas canister, produced by Defense Technology. This is just a small number of the weapons produced by a variety of different companies.
What is tear gas?
“Tear gas” is a term used to refer to a range of different chemicals – like CS or CN gas – that can cause severe eye and respiratory pain, skin irritation, bleeding, and blindness, stomach aches, and diarrhoea. Though often described as “less-lethal” or “non-lethal”, tear gas has killed and caused sever injuries, with very young and old people, asthmatics, epileptics, and those with heart conditions particularly vulnerable to its effects.
Tear gas is used to clear large crowds of people at protests or civil unrest, as well as in prisons. Different methods are used to deliver the gas by police forces, such as hand thrown grenades, grenades fired from launchers, hand-held aersol cans, from spray guns with backpacks, or from vehicle mounted cannons. All chemical weapons – including tear gas – are banned from being used in war, but tear gas is being used increasingly by police forces around the world against protest movements.