The use of tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters in Oakland elicited justifiable rage. Surprisingly, it did something more: mirror usage of the the same weapons (from the same company) and the same tactics in repressing peaceful protests in the West Bank
As Ali Gharib reports in Think Progress, both the tactics and weapons used by the Oakland Police Department are strikingly similar (if not identical) to those used to control peaceful protests in the West Bank.
This video is from Oakland, which shows OPD intentionally firing tear gas and concussion grenades at close range into a peaceful gathering of unarmed citizens – the moment when Scott Olsen is critically injured:
Below is a video from the West Bank. Once you get past the first twenty seconds of opening music and boycott signs, you'll see a peaceful demonstration filled with children, parents and unarmed citizens in the village of Nabi Saleh. This is a village that holds weekly, nonviolent protests against the confiscation of their land and water source for a nearby settlement by the Israeli government. And what you'll also see is what you saw in Oakland: the authorities firing tear gas at protesters at close range for no reason:
What you see in this video unfortunately happens in West Bank villages on regular basis: peaceful protests – even those filled with children – suppressed with tear gas, often shot at close range toward unarmed protesters. (And in the above video, you see that the firing of tear gas elicits rock throwing from a handful of Palestinian youth, enraged that their parents and siblings have been shot at – again – for merely gathering to voice their grievances. To Occupy Wall Street's credit, such has not happened here, yet.)
What I fear, as the Occupy Wall Street protests continue, is that the authorities (such as those in Denver last night) will decide to crack down harder on an ever-fortifying movement with the type of brutal force we saw in Oakland, and which has existed for some time in the West Bank.
It should come as no surprise that police departments around the country, including the OPD, have received consultation from Israeli police commanders on the use of "non-lethal" crowd control devices.
One reason? They use the exact same equipment, as we'll see below the fold...
As Max Blumenthal notes, the tactics used by the Oakland Police Department weren't the only things that echoed the way in which protests are suppressed in the West Bank. So too does the equipment used by the Oakland Police:
With the rise of the Occupy Wall Street, a new generation of mostly middle class Americans is learning for the first time about the militarization of their local police forces. And they are learning the hard way, through confrontations with phalanxes of riot cops armed with the latest in "non-lethal" crowd control weaponry. Yesterday's protests in Oakland, California were the site of perhaps the harshest police violence leveled against the Occupy movement so far. Members of the Oakland Police Department and the California Sheriff's Department attacked unarmed protesters with teargas canisters, beanbag rounds, percussion grenades, and allegedly with rubber bullets, leaving a number of demonstrators with deep contusions and bloody head wounds. It is not difficult to imagine such scenes becoming commonplace as the Occupy protests intensify across the country.
The police repression on display in Oakland reminded me of tactics I witnessed the Israeli army employ against Palestinian popular struggle demonstrations in occupied West Bank villages like Nabi Saleh, Ni'lin and Bilin. So I was not surprised when I learned that the same company that supplies the Israeli army with teargas rounds and other weapons of mass suppression is selling its dangerous wares to the Oakland police. The company is Defense Technology, a Casper, Wyoming based arms firm that claims to "specialize in less lethal technology" and other "crowd management products." Defense Tech sells everything from rubber-coated teargas rounds that bounce in order to maximize gas dispersal to 40 millimeter "direct impact" sponge rounds to "specialty impact" 12 gauge rubber bullets.
Defense Technology sells to the OPD many of the exact same items that Israel purchases for crowd control by its border police patrols, municipal police departments and the IDF.
This tear gas round fired in Oakland by the OPD is made by Defense Technology, which provides these same rounds to border police and the IDF in Israel.
Unfortunately, as we saw in Oakland, these items can be used criminally as weapons under the guise of trying to "control" unarmed, peaceful protesters. And, as we also saw in Oakland with Scott Olsen, these items are potentially lethal.
As Blumenthal notes, many peaceful protesters in the West Bank have been injured and even killed by tear gas rounds and rubber bullets:
Defense Tech products have injured numerous protesters attending the weekly demonstrations in Bilin, an occupied Palestinian village waging an unarmed struggle against Israel's confiscation of its farmland in order to build its separation wall. Jawaher Abu Rahme, a 36-year-old resident of Bilin, died this year of asphyxiation from Israeli tear gas rounds. Her brother, Bassem, was killed two years earlier when he was struck in the chest by a high velocity teargas shell (see video of his killing here). Activists arriving on the scene after Jawaher Abu Rahme's death found spent teargas shells marked with the Defense Tech label.
Amy Goodman at Democracy Now interviewed an American students living in Israel who was injured – much in the same way Scott Olsen was – when he was struck by a tear gas canister at close range during a nonviolent, peaceful protest:
This experience of having nonviolent protests dispersed using concussion grenades, tear gas and high decibel "Scream" machines by border police is, unfortunately, a common one in the West Bank.
There are countless videos (some of which I'll place in the comments so as not to clutter the diary) showing such scenes.
As the Occupy Wall Street movement goes forward, let us hope that the same types of videos do not become common place, streamed from the streets of our own cities.
Let us hope that our boulevards and avenues do not become clogged with chemical weapons and littered with rubber bullets.
However, if they do, let us hope that we who protest have the strength to remain peaceful in the face of products produced by Defense Technologies meant, at their core, to control violent, unruly masses.
Not unarmed protesters in the West Bank. And not peacefully-protesting war veterans in California.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
Author's Note: DCBlue offers a tremendously informative comment that I'm including below:
BAE [Blackwater] is the parent company of Defense Tech, the company from your diary.
Charles Thomas served as Vice President for Army & Joint Operations, at BAE Systems, Systems Engineering Solutions in Washington D.C. Link
In September, Thomas became COO of Blackwater, now known as Xe.
Prior to his time at BAE, he served in all kinds of fun positions, mostly within military intelligence.
Thomas was STO on the Joint Staff under Cheney and Powell. What does that mean? STO, or special technical operations officers, manage and “oversee” — heh — Special Access Programs, of the legal & extra-legal variety…The dude ran pretty much every military intelligence element at every echelon…He ran the Army’s intel schoolhouse at Huachuca…Then, he assumes command of TRADOC and the predecessor to what is now Human Terrain System (Note: see my Daily Beast article on HTS here)…In summation: Chuck Thomas brings to BW/Xe vast experience in blended operations, special collection and a solid grounding in STO.
BAE’s services to U.S. intelligence — including the CIA and the National Counter-Terrorism Center — are provided through a special unit called the Global Analysis Business Unit. It is located in McLean, Virginia, a stone’s throw from the CIA.
Above block quoted info from this Link
Nice the company had a Vice President with such stellar military experience.
Question is, why does the Oakland PD - or any PD for that matter - need to have military armaments such as those supplied by Defense Tech? Oh, and why use those armaments on peaceful protesters?