In preparation for the antiwar protests and Occupations taking place this month, the Chicago Police have gone on a million-dollar shopping spree, getting new riot gear and even directed-sound weapons (LRAD) designed to disperse crowds.
The Guardian reports:
“Police in Chicago have spent $1m on riot-control equipment in the last few months ahead of next month’s Nato summit, which is expected to attract thousands of anti-war protesters. Protesters from a coalition of organisations including unions, anti-war and Occupy groups are expected to descend on the city. National Nurses United, the largest nurses’ union in the US, is providing free buses to Chicago for activists from across the country even as its own plans to demonstrate were vetoed by the city of Chicago on Tuesday.
While protesters insist demonstrations during the Nato conference – the main action is planned for Sunday 20 May – will be peaceful, police appear to be leaving nothing to chance. Records show that since it was announced the Nato conference would be held in Chicago, police have purchased improved riot gear for both officers and horses. Officers are also preparing to use the controversial long-range acoustic device, or LRAD, during the operation.
Chicago police confirmed to the Guardian that they will have a LRAD available at the 20 May protest, “as a means to ensure a consistent message is delivered to large crowds that can be heard over ambient noise”.
LRADs have been purchased by the US army and navy, and have also been used in commercial shipping as an attempt to drive away pirates. The device was first used at a protest in the US at the G20 Pittsburgh summit in September 2009, however there are ongoing complaints that its use there caused some people to suffer permanent damage.
Karen Piper, a university lecturer, claims she suffered irreversible hearing damage that day, and is currently bringing a legal case against the city of Pittsburgh. “This is a device that has the capability to inflict permanent hearing loss on people,” Piper’s lawyer, Vic Walczak, told the Guardian, adding that the device is “more dangerous than a Taser. We don’t believe it should be used against demonstrators. It should not be used outside the battlefield.”
John Beachan, the Chicago co-ordinator for the anti-war group Answer, is involved in organising the protest against the Nato conference. He criticised the police spending as “quite striking. It shows what they’d prefer to spend money on.”
“People are coming out to protest Nato because they want wars to end and they want the money spent on public services, not on bailing out the banks and not on more wars,” said Beachan, a 44-year-old community college lecturer.
“Why is it that the state is spending so much money on arming the police here supposedly in response to what is being planned as a peaceful protest?”