Campaign of the Month: Facing Tear Gas


Tahrir Square, 25 Jan, 2013. "Me and my parents were protesting against the new ‘religious’ regime ruled by Morsi. All of a sudden, we heard screams from several areas around us and people running away from an unknown attack. We couldnt tell what it was till we felt sharp burns through our respiratory system, we coughed so hard and we didnt know that we had to run so fast. [ . . . ] This gas has a killing effect for us. Please help us STOP getting gas into our cities." - Mohammed

War Resisters League is launching a campaign to end the use of tear gas and related chemical weapons used (and exported) by various states. Why?:

Because it’s a tool of repression

During this time of global uprising, tear is used as a tool of dis-organization against movements and people expressing dissent and demanding self-determination.

Because it kills

Canisters blasted directly at protestors and has shot into homes and jail cells have ended many lives and have led to serious health problems. There is a reason tear gas is banned as a “method of warefare” by the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Because movements asked us to

Pro-democracy activists in places including Palestine, Egypt, and Bahrain have directly asked people in the U.S. to step up and confront the manufacturers of the tear gas shipped to their oppressors and used against them.

Because there’s a war at home

Police repression, including the use of lethal and “nonlethal” weapons, is a growing force globally, as more and more countries wage wars against their own people. In addition to attacks on people of color and poor people in the U.S., our government supports many police states abroad, supplying them with money and weapons. We believe that removing one U.S.-made weapon can lead to removing them all.

Because our cities are crumbling

Highlighting the militarization of the police in the U.S. and their fancy toys raises questions about US budget priorities and lifts up stories of communities who are hit first and worst by budget cuts and have long struggled against police racism and brutality.

Because we are rising

All of us, as a global justice movement composed of many struggles, are unstoppable in our demands for change and will continue to make our presence felt in the streets until that change comes.

We see this focus as a way to link many empowered struggles, as well as to expand what is conventionally thought of as “anti-war” work. Most importantly we aim to hold our campaign accountable by taking direct leadership from communities that are hit hardest by militarization. People struggling in the Global South, the U.S.'s more than 2 million incarcerated, and people of color and poor communities most harshly policed worldwide.

More specifically, the goals of our campaign are:

  • To end the manufacture, sale, and shipment (including both international and domestic transfer) of US-made tear gas
  • To bring together people who are affected by tear gas and related chemical weapons to form a global initiative to ban tear gas
  • To end the use of tear gas and pepper spray within US prisons and by US police officers
  • To increase US public awareness of the global movements that tear gas is used to repress
  • To increase US public awareness about the use of tear gas and pepper spray as tools of state repression against poor people and people of color in the US
  • To provide an ongoing source of support to people and movements who are facing tear gas by acting as a hub for stories and footage of tear gas experiences
  • To “change the story” about tear gas in the US public mind from “nonlethal alternative” to “chemical weapon” that represses democracy globally

Some of our achievements thus far have been: to gather dozens of stories from movements around the world (including within US prisons) that have face tear gas on the Facing Tear Gas Tumblr. We have also formed a global network against tear gas which meets over the phone to share experiences, strategies, and begin to act together against these chemical weapons and the broader global phenomenon of militarization of which it is a part. Members of this network include groups in Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, the U.S. and Palestine: and it’s growing!

Finally, since our campaign aims to concretely affect those that profit most from the existence of these weapons we have profiled some of the key tear gas makers in the U.S. that include:

Nonlethal Technologies is based in Homer City, Pennsylvania. Its tear gas canisters were a regularly used weapon against the uprising in Bahrain until they were forced to stop direct sales or export by an international campaign.

Combined Systems Inc. (CSI) calls Jamestown, Pennsylvania home. Often marketed and produced under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) – they provide tear gas to the governments of Argentina, East Timor, Cameroon, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Netherlands, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Sierra Leone and most prominently Israel and Egypt. Its "OC Vapor System is ideal for forcing subjects from small rooms, attics, crawl spaces, prison cells." CSI is owned by Point Lookout Capital and the Carlye Group. Point lookout Capitol which holds a controlling number of shares says glowingly of CSI “The company’s CTS branded product line is the premiere less-lethal line in the industry today.” Nearly every week Combined Systems Inc. holds trainings across the US for law enforcement and security personnel, in using their “chemical munitions” and other weaponry.

Sage Ordnance Systems Group (Sage International, Ltd. and Sage Control Ordnance) is headquartered in Oscoda, Michigan. It runs ‘under the skilled leadership of John Klein.’

AMTEC Less-Lethal Systems Inc. (ALS) (Formerly ALS Technologies Inc.) is based in Bull Shoals, Arkansas (to be moving to Taylor County, Florida in early 2013.) It is a subsidiary of National Presto Industries, which produces kitchen appliances and is especially known for its pressure cooker. Evidence of tear gas canisters it makes have been found in Puduraya, Malaysia. Their new Florida facility “will feature state of the art manufacturing operations, warehouse and distribution capabilities with close proximity to major transportation hubs, as well as a stand-alone training facility. The training center will focus on providing less-lethal and tactical training and will include live-fire ranges, force-on-force training, a hostage rescue building, a corrections pod, a breaching facade, and full classroom facilities.” The president of AMTEC is Rick Gardner.

Defense Technology, headquartered in Casper, Wyoming, produces . This manufacturer is a subsidiary of Safariland, now owned by prominent war profiteer Warren B. Kanders, based in Southern Connecticut (though the sale was held up by the sentencing of a former Safariland exec for bribing government officials in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East in order to secure business). Safariland holds monthly trainings for cops, prison officers, private security personnel, and active-duty soldiers across the U.S. in how to use this Chemical Weapon. Defense Technology tear gas has been used against Occupy Oakland, the ongoing Yemeni movement for change, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, as well as against protestors in Egypt, Bahrain and Tunisia. Between 3,000-5,000 canisters of Safariland tear gas were also used against protesters at the 2001 Summit of the Americas in Québec City.

Finally, here is excerpt from a joint statement composed by the global network Tear Gas is a Weapon of War which reads:

“Tear gas and other chemical munitions are indeed one of law enforcement’s ‘methods of warfare.’ For communities struggling with repression War has come home, and the moment to end it is now.”

Support and participate in our campaign, by:

  • Endorsing the “Tear Gas is a Weapon of War” statement here.
  • Telling your story of facing tear gas by adding to our tumblr here.
  • And finally of members of your movement face tear gas, your organization may want to join the global network. Find out more here.

Programmes & Projects

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Enter the characters shown in the image.