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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Somewhere, Bull Connor is Smiling

You don’t remember Bull Connor? He was Commissioner of Public Safety (chief cop) in Birmingham, Alabama when, in 1963 he used fire hoses and attack dogs against civil rights activists. The films of the confrontation and Connor’s disproportionate response, became an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. He became an international symbol of Southern racism.

Now, science has come up with a better, more efficient crowd control product. From the Daily Dot:

Imagine being soaked, head to toe, in a frothy mix of pureed compost, gangrenous human flesh, and road kill, and you might get some idea of what it’s like to be sprayed with Skunk, according to those who’ve had the misfortune of being doused.

A few police departments in the US, including the St Louis Metropolitan Police, have reportedly purchased the spray, a non-lethal riot-control weapon originally developed by the Israeli firm Odortec, and used first in the occupied West Bank in 2008 against demonstrators. The sticky fluid, which Palestinians say smells like a “mixture of excrement, noxious gas and a decomposing donkey,” is usually fired from armored vehicles using high-pressure water cannons.

Decomposing donkey? Where and when do you learn what THAT smells like?

It was used in Hebron on February 26, 2012 to disperse a crowd of an estimated 1,000 people which clashed with Israeli soldiers during a protest described as commemorating the anniversary of the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre.

Mistral Security, based in Bethesda MD, offers Skunk products to US police and the military. According to the company’s website, they sell it using a number of delivery systems, including 60 ounce canisters with a range of 40 feet; a “skid sprayer” equipped with a 50 gallon tank and a 5 HP motor that can shoot over 60 feet at up to 7 gallons per minute; and a 40mm grenade that can be fired by a 12-gauge shotgun.

The company reports that Skunk is made from 100% food-grade ingredients and is 100% eco-friendly – harmless to both nature and people. From their website:

Applications include, but are not limited to, border crossings, correctional facilities, demonstrations and sit-ins. Decontamination soap is available to mitigate the odor.

So what we have here is another way that our police spend money to create citizen compliance. Police have an ethical problem: How do they control (or disperse) a crowd that gets unruly without causing injury?

In the past year, we have seen several examples of “comply or die” in cities around the US. Now, we see that the technology is evolving from Bull Connor’s days of attack dogs and fire hoses, to tear gas, rubber bullets and bean bags, and now, Skunk. Policing seems to be headed in a strange direction. You better do what you’re told, and not participate in any, you know, civil disobedience, like sit-ins, protests, demonstrations and such, or we will Skunk you, (or worse).

A fundamental Constitutional issue has emerged in police response to civil disobedience in the past few years. City property has been “privatized”, with the municipal corporation as the owner. Public space is not owned, it is supposed to be available to the public with only limited conditions. But, we now see a growing number of examples where police, mayors and municipalities are limiting access for the press, for demonstrators as well as for ordinary citizens to public spaces.

When our laws are manipulated in order to suppress a free press, or personal speech, it shows contempt for the entire idea of a free people or a government of laws. When our police continually purchase new weapons to insure compliance with police orders, peaceful protest is at risk.

Consider this: At Donald Trump’s Dallas rally on Monday night, Politico reports that as the mostly white attendees filed out, they clashed with 200 or so protesters, mostly black and Hispanic.

Dozens of police officers, including several on horseback, pushed protesters off arena property. After being pushed to the other side of the street, one protest leader encouraged the rest to arm their families and teach them to protect themselves:

You’re only going to get Martin Luther King so long before you get Malcolm X.

Our police should be careful what they wish for.

See you on Sunday.

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  • Little Jimmy says:

    Would you prefer a more violent response to looters that disguise themselves as protesters? The community protesters need to begin policing themselves if they do not like the tactics being used on them. I would rather have the police tossing stink bombs than bullets when they are met with chants of “Pigs in a blanket, make them fry!”.

    As a side note. If protesters don’t want to be treated like they are on the verge of violence…don’t break the law. More people need to look back on the likes of MLK and Ghandi and less time with Malcom X.

    Consider this: If a person is bitten by a seemingly docile dog, they will be wary of future dogs and take precautions to protect themselves.

    September 18, 2015 at 9:13 am
  • Wrongologist says:

    Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy: The column is about yet another tool for the police, one that was developed by the Israelis for use against Palestinians, you know, the guys with rockets and bombs. The stink of the Skunk product lingers, so the police can use a literal sniff test to round them up later, at their leisure.

    Since the real start of civil disobedience, the weapons of the demonstrators are unchanged. Mostly, they use their voices and their bodies. Certainly, there are sometimes weapons in the crowd, and no one disputes the need of cops to protect themselves. In fact, the column speaks of the ethical dilemma of police in crowd control.

    But, the point of the column is the shrinking of the permitted places for, and types of, civil dissent. The purpose and use of advanced tools for crowd control, and the clear increase in the the willingness of police to cut off demonstrations early in the protest, limits public dissent.

    Anti-Trump protesters are not Palestinians.

    September 19, 2015 at 8:38 am

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