Who supplied the weapons used against #BLM protesters?

A black and white photo at night, showing large numbers of people walking through smoke with their mouths covered
Demonstrators in Washington DC on 31/5/2020 - Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

In response to the murder of George Floyd by a member of the Minneapolis police department on 25th May, thousands of people across the United States joined protests demanding justice for his killing, radical reform of police forces, and driving home the message that Black Lives Matter. Many of these protests face militarised police responses, including the use of rubber bullets, sting balls, stun grenades, battons, police charges, and chemical weapons like tear gas and pepper spray.

Twitter users have photographed a large number of canisters that were fired during the protest. Many appear to have been produced by a company called Defense Technology, a subsidiary of a company called The Safariland Group (click here for our profile on this company), which owns a number of companies producing a wide range of equipment and weapons used by law enforcement. Weapons from other companies appear to be produced by Combined Tactical Systems (our profile on CTS is available here) and FN Herstal USA.

A number of photos show clear markings from a range of projectiles produced by Defense Technology. For example, the markings on this canister are similar to a “Skat Shell” CS gas canister.

This tweet posted on 5th June 2020 clearly shows two different used canisters, one a “Skat Shell” loaded with OC gas, and a “Spede-Heat” long range CS gas shell. The CS shell in this image is designed to be fired up to 150 yards.

This image was posted by a parent, claiming that the device – which appears similar to a range of weapons advertised on the Defense Technology website - was found by a child.

The following tweets show a spent hand-thrown grenade produced by another company, Combined Tactical Systems. The first is a 5230B Baffled Riot CS Smoke grenade.

The second is a 5440 “Launchable Flameless Expulsion OC” round, apparently used on Capital Hall.

A number of users posted images that appear similar to “less-lethal” projectiles made by the USA subsidiary of the Belgian company FN Herstal. The company produces a range of weapons that can be loaded with a number of different projectiles some loaded with washable or indelible paint, or OC powder. The company advertises the “primary effect” of all of the projectiles as “trauma, which directly neutralizes the aggressor”.

This final tweet appears to also show part of a Triple-Chaser CS gas canister, produced by Defense Technology. This is just a small number of the weapons produced by a variety of different companies.

What is tear gas?

“Tear gas” is a term used to refer to a range of different chemicals – like CS or CN gas - that can cause severe eye and respiratory pain, skin irritation, bleeding, and blindness, stomach aches, and diarrhoea. Though often described as “less-lethal” or “non-lethal”, tear gas has killed and caused sever injuries, with very young and old people, asthmatics, epileptics, and those with heart conditions particularly vulnerable to its effects.

Tear gas is used to clear large crowds of people at protests or civil unrest, as well as in prisons. Different methods are used to deliver the gas by police forces, such as hand thrown grenades, grenades fired from launchers, hand-held aersol cans, from spray guns with backpacks, or from vehicle mounted cannons. All chemical weapons – including tear gas - are banned from being used in war, but tear gas is being used increasingly by police forces around the world against protest movements.

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