This week, Atlanta police officers armed with riot gear used tear gas canisters and smoke grenades against nonviolent protesters during a Block Cop City action. Harmful LRAD machines also made an appearance.
This article contains additional reporting from Adjoa Danso, a contributor at Mainline.
ATLANTA—On Nov. 13, Atlanta police reportedly used Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Egyptian police crowd control and military-industrial techniques against civilians. That morning, over 500 people gathered in Southeast Atlanta to protest construction of Cop City, a $90 million-plus police militarization facility being constructed in Weelaunee Forest in unincorporated DeKalb County. The protest was a mass nonviolent direct action organized under the name Block Cop City, and hundreds traveled to Atlanta in support of locals in their ongoing widespread resistance of the facility.
That morning, protesters were met by a line of police in full riot gear in what became a violent confrontation between unarmed protesters and police armed with tactical gear, AR-15 rifles, and other military-industry style weapons. Police used tear gas, smoke grenades, and rubber bullets against the crowd. It was also reported that a long-range acoustic device (LRAD) machine was on site, as well. In a press conference later that day, Atlanta officials acknowledged eight law enforcement agencies for their collaboration in the response to the Block Cop City protest. Construction was reportedly stopped at the site that day.
[ Watch a full livestream of the Block Cop City action and police response by the NDN Collective here. ]
Two people on the ground at Block Cop City who spoke with Mainline say they saw metal tear gas canisters at their feet after police threw them into the crowd. One described the canister as being metal with a blue font—the same description of the Triple-Chaser CS canister by Defense Technology Corp., which distributes their products to law enforcement internationally. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, “Tear gas grenades, ‘triple chaser’ gas canisters and stun grenades made by the American companies Combined Systems Inc. and Defense Technology Corp. were used … by Israeli security forces and military units.”
When we sent the image of the Triple-Chaser CS canister, our source said those were the same canisters police in Atlanta used against them during the Block Cop City protest, saying, “Absolutely without a doubt. Multiple. One directly at my feet erupted in my face and gave me some of the worst tear gas I’ve ever had.” Our source said they needed to be “thoroughly flooded and use an inhaler” from a medic.
According to Defense Technology’s official website, the Triple-Chaser separating canister, CS, “consists of three separate canisters pressed together with separating charges between each. When deployed, the canisters separate and land approximately 20 feet apart allowing increased area coverage in a short period of time.”
Police also threw tear gas canisters into a press gaggle of clearly identifiable media workers wearing vests with “Press” clearly marked on them. Some of the journalists’ vests were bright neon yellow.
Other models of tear-gas canisters, such as the Riot Control Continuous Discharge Grenade by Defense Technology Corp., have previously been found in the Weelaunee Forest prior to lease agreement between Atlanta Police Foundation and the City of Atlanta for Cop City. According to Defense Technology’s website, “The Riot Control CS Grenade is designed specifically for outdoor use in crowd control situations with a high volume continuous burn that expels its payload in approximately 20-40 seconds through four gas ports located on the top of the canister. This grenade can be used to conceal tactical movement or to route a crowd. The volume of smoke and agent is vast and obtrusive.”
Although tear gas in warfare is prohibited under multiple international agreements, including the 1992 Weapons Convention, domestic use remains largely unregulated. Tear gas is also more dangerous than law enforcement lets on. Tear gas can cause blindness, chemical burns, respiratory failure, and death. It has also been linked to miscarriages. Additionally, tear gas canisters have killed people when fired at close range.
Police also threw smoke grenades at protesters during the Block Cop City march, and apparently used the same type of grenades that were used against people during the 2011 Egyptian revolution protests.
Atlanta police apparently also used a LRAD machine on Monday, which is a “specialized loudspeaker that produces sound at high power for communicating at a distance. It has been used as a method of crowd control, which has caused permanent hearing damage, having an extremely high decibel capacity (up to 160 dB measured at one meter from the device).” LRADs have also been used by the Israeli Defense Forces on Palestinians and were later deployed against Black Americans in Ferguson in 2014. Triple-Chaser CS canisters were also used against protesters in Ferguson that year.
It is not a new trend for the Israel occupation to be a sort of testing ground for military-industrial techniques that are then sold for a profit across the world. At the time of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014, at least 300 high-ranking sheriffs and police agencies, large and small, had traveled to Israel for privately funded seminars in what is described as “counterterrorism techniques,” according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Georgia is specifically connected to IDF through Georgia State University’s nonprofit Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, through which GSU and the State of Israel have partnered for over 30 years. Based at the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, GILEE was formed as part of public safety efforts ahead of the 1996 Summer Olympics. Since then, the Atlanta Police Department and the GSU Police Department have trained with Israel Police and the Israel Defense Forces, learning new tactics and weaponry. In addition to APD, Ferguson, New York City, and Philadelphia’s police departments are GILEE partners. GILEE also has extensive international support. Law enforcement in Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom have sung the program’s praises. Meanwhile, the Stop Cop City movement has largely included the abolition of GILEE as part of its demands.
“You cannot close your eyes to the terror of policing in this country and in this world,” said Kamau Franklin, founder of Black liberation group Community Movement Builders, earlier that morning before protesters marched to Weelaunee Forest. Other speakers included Belkis Terán and Joel Paez, parents of Manuel “Tortuguita” Paez Terán, a 26-year-old climate activist who was killed by Georgia police in the forest in January. Tortuguita is the first-ever known climate activist to be killed by police on U.S. soil. According to Global Witness, more than 1,700 climate activists have been murdered worldwide in the last decade.
“This is not a local struggle,” said Sam Beard, one of the organizers of the Block Cop City protest. “This is a struggle for competing visions of the future. Every single corporate polluter and environmentally racist project … there is a force that makes those things possible. And that force, of course, is the police.”