Chicago cops’ new weapon
As week-long protests against the NATO summit begin, city police have bought a potentially dangerous sound cannon
BY NATASHA LENNARD via Salon.com, May 14, 2012
This week, Occupy Chicago welcomes allies from around the country and the world as they descend on the Windy City to protest the weekend’s NATO summit. The Chicago police department is ready: Not only has the city passed strict new protest ordinances, but it’s been stockpiling serious riot gear in anticipation of conflict with the protesters.
According to a report from the Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt, in recent months the Chicago police have spent over $1 million on riot equipment, including purchasing a controversial L-RAD (long-range acoustic device) — a sound canon designed to cause extreme pain to those in its path. The Chicago Police department are pitching the L-RAD largely as a means to communicate with large crowds: “This is simply a risk management tool, as the public will receive clear information regarding public safety messages and any orders provided by police,” Chicago police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton told the Guardian. However, during its first outing at a U.S. protest, during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in 2009, police blasted non-lethal sound waves from the device as a crowd deterrent.
Unlike firing tear gas or swinging batons, deploying the L-RAD does not create a dramatic media spectacle; indeed videos from the Pittsburgh protests capture the L-RAD emitting little more than a high pitched siren. Those within the sound canon’s range, however, have described immense pain and severe headaches and — in some cases — irreversible hearing damage.
LRAD corporation, who produce the weapon for the military and domestic policing said that anyone within 100m of the devices directed sound path will experience “extreme pain,” according to Gizmodo. “In Pittsburgh, they directed the L-RAD at a crowd coming up the center of a wide street, then sent tear gas canisters down the sides of the street. Tear gas is painful, but everyone ran into the tear gas to get out of the L-RAD path,” one protester who attended the Pittsburgh G20 told me, asking to remain anonymous.
Chicago’s Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy has recently expressed that he believes tear gas to be an ineffective crowd control device — and based on lessons from Pittsburgh, the L-RAD can produce a painful enough effect to force crowd dispersal without the dramatic media impact tear gas creates; it’s certainly a more insidious weapon. (Indeed, the Chicago police riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention went down in infamy partly because of the excessive use of tear gas).
Chris Hedges points out that it is not the poor underclass that those in power need worry about but rather members of the middle class who feel oppressed who have become unemployed or are under paid who are anxious about their employment or their financial situation due to a busted economy.
Colonized by Corporations by Chris hedges via Truthdig.com, May 14, 2012
We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” including African-Americans. The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced to subsistence level. The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent. And the ensuing fear and instability—keenly felt this past weekend by the more than 200,000 Americans who lost their unemployment benefits—ensure political passivity by diverting all personal energy toward survival. It is an old, old game.
A change of power does not require the election of a Mitt Romney or a Barack Obama or a Democratic majority in Congress, or an attempt to reform the system or electing progressive candidates, but rather a destruction of corporate domination of the political process—Gamer’s “patron-client” networks. It requires the establishment of new mechanisms of governance to distribute wealth and protect resources, to curtail corporate power, to cope with the destruction of the ecosystem and to foster the common good. But we must first recognize ourselves as colonial subjects. We must accept that we have no effective voice in the way we are governed. We must accept the hollowness of electoral politics, the futility of our political theater, and we must destroy the corporate structure itself.
The danger the corporate state faces does not come from the poor. The poor, those Karl Marx dismissed as the Lumpenproletariat, do not mount revolutions, although they join them and often become cannon fodder. The real danger to the elite comes from déclassé intellectuals, those educated middle-class men and women who are barred by a calcified system from advancement. Artists without studios or theaters, teachers without classrooms, lawyers without clients, doctors without patients and journalists without newspapers descend economically. They become, as they mingle with the underclass, a bridge between the worlds of the elite and the oppressed. And they are the dynamite that triggers revolt.
This is why the Occupy movement frightens the corporate elite. What fosters revolution is not misery, but the gap between what people expect from their lives and what is offered. This is especially acute among the educated and the talented. They feel, with much justification, that they have been denied what they deserve. They set out to rectify this injustice. And the longer the injustice festers, the more radical they become.