Monday, September 28, 2009

Robocops Come to Pittsburgh

Robocops Come to Pittsburgh and bring the latest weaponry with them


by Mike Ferner


September 28, 2009


No longer the stuff of disturbing futuristic fantasies,

an  arsenal of "crowd control munitions," including one

that reportedly made its debut in the U.S., was

deployed with a massive, overpowering police presence

in Pittsburgh during last week's G-20 protests.


Nearly 200 arrests were made and civil liberties groups

charged the many thousands of police (most transported

on Port Authority buses displaying "PITTSBURGH WELCOMES

THE WORLD"), from as far away as Arizona and Florida

with overreactingand they had plenty of weaponry with

which to do it.


Bean bags fired from shotguns, CS (tear) gas, OC

(Oleoresin Capsicum) spray, flash-bang grenades, batons

and, according to local news reports, for the first

time on the streets of America, the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD).


Mounted in the turret of an Armored Personnel Carrier

(APC), I saw the LRAD in action twice in the area of

25th, Penn and Liberty Streets of Lawrenceville, an old

Pittsburgh neighborhood.  Blasting a shrill, piercing

noise like a high-pitched police siren on steroids, it

quickly swept streets and sidewalks of pedestrians,

merchants and journalists and drove residents into

their homes, but in neither case were any demonstrators

present.  The APC, oversized and sinister for a city

street, together with lines of police in full riot gear

looking like darkly threatening Michelin Men, made for

a scene out of a movie you didn’t want to be in.


As intimidating as this massive show of armed force and

technology was, the good burghers of Pittsburgh and

their fellow citizens in the Land of the Brave and Home

of the Free ain't seen nothin yet.  Tear gas and

pepper spray are nothing to sniff at and, indeed, have

proven fatal a surprising number of times, but they

have now become the old standbys compared to the list

below thats already at or coming soon to a police

station or National Guard headquarters near you.

Proving that "what goes around, comes around," some of

the new Property Protection Devices were developed by a

network of federally-funded, university-based research

institutes like one in Pittsburgh itself, Penn State's

Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies.


·   Raytheon Corp.'s Active Denial System, designed for

crowd control in combat zones, uses an energy beam to

induce an intolerable heating sensation, like a hot

iron placed on the skin.  It is effective beyond the

range of small arms, in excess of 400 meters.  Company

officials have been advised they could expand the

market by selling a smaller, tripod-mounted version for

police forces.


·   M5 Modular Crowd Control Munition, with a range of

30 meters "is similar in operation to a claymore mine,

but it delivers...a strong, nonpenetrating blow to the

body with multiple sub-munitions (600 rubber balls)."


·   Long Range Acoustic Device or "The Scream," is a

powerful megaphone the size of a satellite dish that

can emit sound "50 times greater than the human

threshold for pain" at close range, causing permanent

hearing damage.  The L.A. Times wrote U.S. Marines in

Iraq used it in 2004.  It can deliver recorded warnings

in Arabic and, on command, emit a piercing

tone..."[For] most people, even if they plug their

ears, [the device] will produce the equivalent of an

instant migraine," says Woody Norris, chairman of

American Technology Corp., the San Diego firm that

produces the weapon. "It will knock [some people] on

their knees."  CBS News reported in 2005 that the

Israeli Army first used the device in the field to

break up a protest against Israel's separation wall.

"Protesters covered their ears and grabbed their heads,

overcome by dizziness and nausea, after the

vehicle-mounted device began sending out bursts of

audible, but not loud, sound at intervals of about 10

seconds...A military official said the device emits a

special frequency that targets the inner ear."


·   In "Non-lethal Technologies: An Overview," Lewer

and Davison describe a lengthy catalog of new weaponry

including the "Directed Stick Radiator," a hand-held

system based on the same technology as The Scream.  "It

fires high intensity sonic bullets' or pulses of sound

between 125-150db for a second or two.  Such a weapon

could, when fully developed, have the capacity to knock

people off their feet."


·   The Penn State facility is testing a "Distributed

Sound and Light Array Debilitator" a.k.a. the "puke

ray."  The colors and rhythm of light are absorbed by

the retina and disorient the brain, blinding the victim

for several seconds.  In conjunction with disturbing

sounds it can make the person stumble or feel

nauseated.  Foreign Policy in Focus reports that the

Department of Homeland Security, with $1 million

invested for testing the device, hopes to see it "in

the hands of thousands of policemen, border agents and

National Guardsmen" by 2010.


·   Spider silk is cited in the University of

Bradford's Non-Lethal Weapons Research Project, Report

#4 (pg. 20) as an up-and-comer.  A research

collaboration between the University of New Hampshire

and the U.S. Army Natick Research, Development and

Engineering Center is looking into the use of spider

silk as a non-lethal "entanglement" material for

disabling people. They have developed a method for

producing recombinant spider silk protein using E. coli

and are trying to develop methods to produce large

quantities of these fibres."


·   New Scientist reports that the (I'm not making this

up) Inertial Capacitive Incapacitator (ICI), developed

by the Physical Optics Corporation of Torrance,

California, uses a thin-film storage device charged

during manufacture that only discharges when it strikes

the target. It can be incorporated into a ring-shaped

aerofoil and fired from a standard grenade launcher at

low velocity, while still maintaining a flat trajectory

for maximum accuracy.


·   Aiming beyond Tasers, the Homeland Security

Advanced Research Projects Agency, (FY 2009 budget:

$1B) the domestic equivalent of the Defense Advanced

Research Projects Agency (DARPA), plans to develop

wireless weapons effective over greater distances, such

as in an auditorium or sports stadium, or on a city

street.  One such device, the Piezer, uses

piezoelectric crystals that produce voltage when they

are compressed.  A 12-gauge shotgun fires the crystals,

stunning the target with an electric shock on impact.

Lynntech of College Station, Texas, is developing a

projectile Taser that can be fired from a shotgun or

40-mm grenade launcher to increase greatly the weapon's

current range of seven meters.


·   "Off the Rocker and On the Floor: Continued

Development of Biochemical Incapacitating Weapons," a

report by the Bradford Disarmament Research Centre

revealed that in 1992, the National Institute of

Justice contracted with Lawrence Livermore National Lab

to review clinical anesthetics for use by special ops

military forces and police.  LLNL concluded the best

option was an opioid, like fentanyl, effective at very

low doses compared to morphine.  Combined with a patch

soaked in DMSO (dimethylsufoxide, a solvent) and fired

from an air rifle, fentanyl could be delivered to the

skin even through light clothing.  Another recommended

application for the drug was mixed with fine powder and

dispersed as smoke.


·   After upgrades, the infamous "Puff the Magic

Dragon" gunship from the Vietnam War is now the AC-130.

"Non-Lethal Weaponry: Applications to AC-130 Gunships,"

observes that "With the increasing involvement of US

military in operations other than war..." the AC-130

"would provide commanders a full range of non-lethal

weaponry from an airborne platform which was not

previously available to them."  The paper concludes in

part that "As the use of non-lethal weapons increases

and it becomes valid and acceptable, more options will

become available."


·   Prozac and Zoloft are two of over 100

pharmaceuticals identified by the Penn State College of

Medicine and the university's Applied Research Lab for

further study as "non-lethal calmatives."  These

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), noted

the Penn State study, "...are found to be highly

effective for numerous behavioral disturbances

encountered in situations where a deployment of a

non-lethal technique must be considered.  This class of

pharmaceutical agents also continues to be under

intense development by the pharmaceutical

industry...New compounds under development (WO

09500194) are being designed with a faster onset of

action.  Drug development is continuing at a rapid rate

in this area due to the large market for the treatment

of depression (15 million individuals in North

America)...It is likely that an SSRI agent can be

identified in the near future that will feature a rapid

rate of onset."


In Pittsburgh last week, an enormously expensive show

of police and weaponry, intended for "security" of the

G20 delegates, simultaneously shut workers out of

downtown jobs for two days, forced gasping students and

residents back into their dormitories and homes, and

turned journalists' press passes into quaint, obsolete

reminders of a bygone time.


Most significant of all, however, was what Witold

Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU, told

the Associated Press: "It's not just intimidation, it's

disruption and in some cases outright prevention of

peaceful protesters being able to get their message out."




Mike Ferner is a writer from Ohio and president of

Veterans For Peace




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