Tag Archive: tear gas

Shocking police overreach haunts Durham: Racial profiling, quotas and secret “conviction bonuses”

handcuffed-620x412How a federal grant incentivized a police department to go nuts on drug arrests — and terrorize its community

From Salon

In the late afternoon of Jan. 3, Robin Dean, a 50-year-old county employee, pulled into a Durham, N.C., Burger King parking lot to give a friend a package of frozen chitlins that she had cooked over the holidays. After the transfer was complete, the pair said goodbye and parted ways. Both were subsequently pulled over by Durham Police.

Dean says an officer told her that there was evidence that she had just engaged in an illegal drug transaction, searched her car without her consent, and called for backup. When Dean worried aloud that she had been racially profiled, she says the white officer called her an “idiot,” although the nearly hour-long stop revealed nothing illegal apart from a window-tinting violation that was later dismissed.

In recent years, stories like this have come to epitomize heightened concerns that, as Durham becomes a regional center for sophisticated culture and cuisine, the drug enforcement strategies of its police increasingly assign second-class status to the city’s minority communities. Over the past several months, protesters alleging police misconduct have pummeled the city’s police headquarters with rocks and met tear gas along the usually amiable streets of this city of 240,000.

In seeking to understand the roots of the city’s divisive policing, lawyers at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice were astonished by what a recent round of public records requests produced. Not only was a federal grant subsidizing what they regarded as the most perniciously targeted drug enforcement operations of the department, but the grant — with a key “performance measure” emphasizing police report their sheer volume of arrests — also appeared to be incentivizing the department to raise its overall number of drug arrests, which overwhelmingly affect the city’s black community. SCSJ attorneys add that recently revealed evidence also indicates that the federally funded program included an illegal system of secret payments law enforcement made to witnesses who delivered successful drug prosecutions — another sign, they say, that the city’s policing has flown off the rails. (more…)

Health effects of tear gas and pepper spray

teargasFrom Facing Tear Gas

Although the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the use of tear gas and pepper spray in warfare, for domestic policing and related uses by state forces, these chemicals are allowed to be used on people and are labeled as “riot control agents.” The CWC stipulates that these chemical weapons must have effects that disappear shortly after exposure, meaning no long-term health effects; however, in a number of cases, researchers have linked the use of tear gas and pepper spray to possible serious illness and death. This research echoes people’s stories about tear gas and pepper spray.

In cases of the use of tear gas and pepper spray as the central element of a state offensive against people protesting in the streets and/or expressing their dissent to the conditions in which they live, people who have been assaulted with large amounts of tear gas and pepper spray, sometimes for a prolonged period of time, have reported acute and long-lasting health effects. During times like the 1987 government attack on the people of South Korea during a wave of protests where 351,000 tear gas canisters were used against demonstrators in multiple cities, or the massive use of tear gas in Quebec City in Canada in 2001 during the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests, or with the near-daily use of tear gas against people in struggle in Bahrain, Egypt, and Palestine, again in multiple cities/towns, people have reported severe health problems. In the case of Bahrain, Egypt, and Palestine, there have been many reported deaths (54 in Bahrain alone since 2011) due in some cases to tear gas canisters (the most common being CS gas) being fired at a high velocity as projectile weapons, though in other cases it is due to the exposure to the gas itself.

Experiences reported beyond the immediate effects of the tear gas include coughing, shortness of breath, and other lung-related problems (heighted in people who already have lung problems), delayed menstruation, and reports of miscarriages and stillbirths associated with the gas. These effects have also been reported in research studies, along with reports that tear gas can also cause damage to the heart and liver. In the case of pepper spray, deaths have similarly been reported (mostly in jails and prisons) due to exposure to pepper spray that is well over the “recommended” amount from the manufacturer and is used in an enclosed space and/or over prolonged periods of time. One infamous news story from 1995 reports the LA Police Department as admitting that, over a 5-year period, 61 people died while in police custody as the result of the use of pepper spray. Again, prior lung problems heighten the danger of this chemical weapon. There have been few research studies of the health effects of pepper spray, which means there is much less documentation of its longer-term effects beyond those cases of death which sometimes become public. Many continue to call for more clinical research studies about the health effects of pepper spray and tear gas. (more…)

Extremely Gross and Dangerously Stupid: a Response to City Councilman Steve Schewel’s Defense of the Durham Police

durhamby the Prison Books Collective

We would propose that Steve Schewel is not worried about the violence of his police force, whose members he seems to regard as big blue angels, but rather the possibility of a visible, popular, and confrontational opposition to that violence. How else can one interpret his statement that police violence must be ‘proportional to the situation’? Steve Schewel does not desire a Durham without police violence; he wants a Durham where that violence is institutionalized and managed in such a way as to be omnipresent but entirely invisible. The function of that violence, in turn, is to invisibly preserve in a hundred ways the world many of us already inhabit: poverty, addiction, racism, sexism, alienation, and despair.”

On December 19th, a group of about 200 people assembled at CCB plaza to march on Durham Police Department headquarters, with the goal of family members and friends praying at the stated site of Chuy Huerta’s death, and for all to be able to voice their outrage at the DPD. As the march began, candles were lit and roses were carried; two large banners joined many small signs. A diverse crowd of hundreds, not a mere handful of “agitators,” screamed “Cops, Pigs, Murderers!” and “No Justice No Peace Fuck the Police!” at the top of their lungs.

The family led the march to the DPD parking lot, but were met by fifty police officers who threatened to arrest them. The crowd of angry youth and friends encircled the family, using a wall of black banners and their bodies as protection while the family prayed at a makeshift shrine of candles and flowers. The police eventually forced them off the property, calling out a countdown over a bullhorn and threatening to storm the gathering. The group that returned to CCB plaza was undoubtedly incensed at the provocation, but was beginning to disband after exchanging contacts. The police, outfitted in riot gear, then charged the crowd in the park, tearing apart banners and hurling smoke canisters. People linked arms to slow down the charge while parents and small children escaped the park. Cops repeatedly struck retreating people in the back of the head and began to launch tear gas in downtown Durham. (more…)

Durham, NC: The Strangest Prayer Vigil We’ve Ever Seen

banner!  From Anarchist News

Thursday night, December 19th, marked the one-month anniversary of 17-year old Jesus “Chuy” Huerta’s death and the second demonstration in an ongoing and escalating battle with the Durham, NC police department. Catalyzed though certainly not contained by the mysterious death of Chuy while in police custody on November 19th, around 200 family members, friends, neighbors, and fed-up local residents converged at CCB plaza again to grieve and express their rage. Despite the fact that officers report they frisked Chuy before placing him in the vehicle and despite the fact that his hands were handcuffed behind his back, Chief of Police Lopez is still claiming that Chuy shot himself in the head while in the back of the squad car at Police Headquarters. (more…)