Ban Tear Gas Now!

Stop using chemical weapons on citizens of any nation.

Archive for the category “About Us”

Call for Collaboration

 

During my senior year in college, many years ago, my professor accused me of always trying to reinvent the wheel. It was in my nature to be as independent as possible, and being in an arts focused program at the time, I felt the need to make sure I didn’t steal inspiration from other artists. It was more about a code of ethics than stubbornness. Although I can be found guilty of this quality, too. You need to be stubborn if you are going to accomplish your goals. So I let the criticism slide off my back.

 

But now, as I push forward in my research, I have realized that collaboration is a necessary aspect of what I am trying to accomplish. First of all, in order to avoid repeating history, learning from others is just common sense. That’s why one purpose of my site has been to promote the work of others who have also written about this subject from a knowledgeable standpoint (and not the one promoted by the corporations who profit from weapons sales).  Secondly, the efforts of many will (most often) trump the efforts of one: if it’s just lonely little me on a soapbox, there’s only so far this message can go.

 

So I am asking for help as I ramp up my efforts to stop the further victimization of citizens through the use of tear gas and other chemical weapons. I want to partner with other organizations that may not have the exact same purpose as me, but also are working towards making a more socially just world. I would love to work with artists, lawyers, researchers, scholars, and other activists as I pursue this goal. (Many thanks to Jeff Nguyen for his contributions of resources; I will be posting them soon!!)

 

If you know of or work for an organization that would be willing to sponsor my efforts this summer as I conduct interviews and create activist toolkits/ materials, please contact me at banteargasnow (at) hotmail (dot) com.

 

Thank you for your support of this cause, and for the efforts you take each and every day to make this a better world.

 

— Suzanne

 

 

Update on my fight

This week I embark on a new leg of my fight. Two years ago I lost my first pregnancy after being exposed to tear gas on a work assignment. Apparently, my employer (the University of Washington) didn’t feel it necessary to cover the medical expenses that resulted from this, despite my completing my duties at the expense of my health and my child’s life. In the past, I had never asked for more than the documented medical expenses, for which I had to submit multiple copies to multiple agents and tell my story repeatedly, when all I wanted to do was grieve in private. I am now preparing to take my case to the Washington State Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals. Again, I have a lot in my life I would rather be doing, like working on my thesis, or spending time with my family. Instead, I am researching tort law, insurance policies, and as always, the effects of the misleadingly named chemical weapon “tear gas.”

In preparing my case, I must also challenge the false information out there. The logic of many sources on the subject is that because there is limited information on the dangers of a chemical agent, that must mean it’s safe. The reality is that because it’s unethical to test chemical weapons on pregnant women, you won’t see lab studies on the subject. You’ll see news reports on the rising rates of miscarriages in areas hit by tear gas, but those reports are always secondary to the “real story”; the real stories reduce people killed and injured to nothing more than numbers, and treat governments and corporations as the only ones with anything to lose.

The real story is that this world is fucked, and it won’t change until we do something about it. Even if that something is telling the same story over and over until others take up the call, and force change.

I have told the story of what has happened to me to so many bureaucrats that the dates of what happened to me are forever burned into my head. For example, yesterday was the two year anniversary of the second ultrasound done to confirm my baby no longer had a heartbeat. Tomorrow is the two year anniversary of the day the miscarriage began in earnest. February 21 is the two year anniversary of the D&C for which I had to pay the hospital expenses out of pocket. And February 26 is the day I got on a plane heading home, alone (because my fiance and I couldn’t afford tickets on the same flight), seated behind a couple with their new baby, crying almost the entire way (me and the baby).

I am going to keep repeating these dates and my story, not only for fair recompense, but so that weapons manufacturers can no longer claim safety based on the lack of information. In what world does that logic make sense? Here’s some information: I lost my baby because I was exposed to a chemical weapon. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out. It just takes a very stubborn researcher with an aptitude for fighting red tape to prove it to the powers that be.

If you want to join my fight, send an email to banteargas (at) hotmail.com, or leave a comment below with resources for others.

Suzanne

Battlewounds

Today is a bittersweet anniversary for me. Exactly two years ago, to the hour, I saw my first baby’s heartbeat on an ultrasound before being injured by tear gas a week later on assignment for the University of Washington and spending the following weeks trying to save my child in vain.

Once we knew it was too late, I was told not to cry, but women need to acknowledge these losses openly. Until we do, others will feel compelled to suffer silently. Politicians will continue to make adequate reproductive health insurance impossible at a time when women need it most — surgical procedures after miscarriage are not automatically covered, so I am still fighting the Washington State L&I for reimbursement. And authorities will continue to blatantly disregard public health by indiscriminately deploying chemical weapons banned from use in warfare, but somehow still legal to use on innocent civilians.

Join me in the fight to protect others from needless suffering. In honor of the women in Bahrain, Greece, US, and other countries who have lost their children and face the threat of future losses, take a stand. In honor of those who have died or witnessed others’ deaths from “inappropriate” use of tear gas (when in reality there is no appropriate use), speak up.

Some things in life cannot be undone, but we can prevent them from happening again.

Write your politicians: Ban the production and distribution of tear gas now. Protest. Let others know about the dangers of this weapon, even if you don’t think you will be exposed.

Suzanne

Responses

Since posting my story of why I got involved in the fight against governments using chemical weapons on citizens, I have received some surprisingly negative comments. One person questioned why I as a pregnant woman would travel across the world (when we all know that pregnant women should be barricaded in their houses where it’s safe at all times). Not that it’s relevant, but the answer is I didn’t know. That’s the beauty of false negative tests. The other point was that “miscarriages just happen.” Yet in the US, there are currently politicians seeking to make women prove that they didn’t cause their miscarriages while failing to punish corporations that knowingly produce chemicals or other hazards harmful to pregnant women’s health. Another responder seemed to think knowing a scientist makes him a genius. (I have family that works in Los Alamos, too, but I still do my own research.) Here’s an excerpt from Texas Tech University Health Science Center’s website regarding research on the subject I am doing my best to shine a light on: “there are no adequate and well-controlled studies done in humans. Thus, we have no way of knowing for sure what the hidden effects of CS tear gas during pregnancy may be. Caution is advised until further information is obtained. There has been report of increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirths due to direct exposure of CS gas during pregnancy in the war-torn Middle East; it is uncertain if these risks were caused directly by CS gas exposure or by other confounding variables in that particular area of turmoil.” Part of this project is to consolidate the lesser known information on tear gas into one website.

If you think I’m a crackpot for trying to protect others, so be it. But I think it’s more insane that we are okay with the military industrial complex threatening innocent civilians instead of protecting them. I think if you read up on crowd control techniques, you’d find this gem:

“‘Our problem is that an indiscriminate technology — a so-called less-lethal device like tear gas — will affect not only the up to 5 percent of the crowd who are the violent offenders, but will also affect the bystanders, the vast majority of people who had nothing to do with the conflict in the first place,’ said Mr. Rosenfeld, who chairs the Densus Group consulting firm of Plano, Texas. Many cities in the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and continental Europe no longer use tear gas in protests, he said. Their police now employ an alternative philosophy that says ‘you make people responsible for their actions. So the trick is to identify those with violent intent, go and arrest and prosecute and convict those individuals, and facilitate protests by everyone else.'”

So if you’re too lazy, cynical, or apathetic to try to fix the system, don’t bother reading what I write. Won’t bother me a bit. And if you know there’s a problem and you’re not even trying to be part of the solution, then that’s on your conscience, not mine.

My Story

I grew up thinking tear gas was non-lethal. My army father told me about troops being sent into a room in basic training, dressed in full gear, and after the door was shut, just sitting and waiting as tear gas was pumped into the enclosure. After the room was filled, they were instructed to take off their gas masks so that they would learn not to panic. A classmate in my undergrad classes told me what it was like to be tear gassed as a child in South Korea — this came up because many of my classmates had attended the WTO riots and came back with smoke filled portraits of the chaos. She said it’s important to let your eyes tear up and not try to wipe them, and don’t sniffle because you’re just trapping the toxins in instead of letting them out.

When I was exposed to tear gas, I wasn’t protesting, and I wasn’t in the military. I was walking through a parking lot on a Wednesday night with a group of students I was co-chaperoning for work, on the way to a soccer match. I was happy: I was in Athens, and I had just seen my baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound less than a week before, strong though tiny. As we neared the stadium, we started to notice something like the smell of burning rubber, or maybe someone was smoking something. It was seconds between the time my boss said, “I think it’s tear gas,” and we rounded the corner to see a line of police in full riot gear, faces covered, and our eyes and throats began burning. Students began coughing and sputtering, and I just repeated the advice I heard. I stayed calm. Instead of physically separating the AEK inspired scuffles that broke out through the night, police would continue to release multiple canisters of tear gas.

When I got home, my clothes reeked of the gas. I called my fiancé and told him what happened. We started trying to get in touch with all the medical professionals we knew. Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center connected us to US Poison Control: the answer was that if I wasn’t right on top of a canister I was probably ok. I called my Greek doctor in the morning, and he said I was probably ok. We went on a class field trip over the weekend. On the way back, my boss noted he was surprised to see me actually eating food (my morning sickness had kept me from eating much up to that point). The next day, I began experiencing intense cramping. I went to work briefly the day after (a Monday) and was put on bed rest and medicine to control bleeding until my doctor could see me on Thursday. There was no heartbeat on the ultrasound. I called my fiancé and begged/ ordered him to get on a plane in time for the follow up ultrasound a week later. I was still on medicine and bed rest, meaning until he came out, I didn’t have an assured means of even getting groceries. The second ultrasound confirmed the worst, and after a physically and emotionally painful weekend, I had surgery and decided to return to the States.

Why am I writing this? It’s humiliating, depressing to talk about it. In part, I write this for solace of and as a resource for others who have experienced the same. Over a year later, I still think about it. I admit that even after the birth of my daughter, I still cry for the loss of my first pregnancy. They say tear gas is a temporary irritant, but that has not been my experience. Some may even state that because I was in Greece I should have expected this, but Americans need to pay attention. Greece, like many other nations, is supplied with their military weapons by the US (since the end of WWII). Tear gas is an American export: an American company profited off the loss of my pregnancy and countless injuries to others. So then I also admit I write out of anger: anger at the thought that other women have gone through this, and I’ll be damned if I allow my daughter’s generation to be harmed by her government’s practices in the same way I was. The American government has the responsibility of protecting its citizens from irresponsible corporate practices and the use of unnecessary force.

The sad fact is that activists and soldiers alike almost claim it as a badge of honor, “Yeah, I’ve been tear gassed.” If you’re a healthy young male, you probably won’t notice any long lasting effects- maybe more of a desire to protect yourself against it next time, or maybe you build up a tolerance to it. But tear gas does not only target healthy young males. When it is deployed, it hits whoever is in the area. The elderly, young children, and pregnant women are just as likely targets for an uncontrollable chemical weapon. Due to the nature of laboratory studies, it is not ethical to test the effects of tear gas on humans or human pregnancy, yet governments have no qualms about actually using the substance on pregnant women. Articles have been published on the rise in miscarriages due to tear gas exposure (see “Relevant Articles” at http://www.banteargasnow.com), but many medical professionals are still citing the lack of “laboratory testing” to prove a link. We see tear gas’s brutal effects in the real world, but it doesn’t count because the dispenser of the tear gas wasn’t taking notes or wearing a lab coat.

This is my plea to you: write your local representatives, your federal government officials, and your police departments. Send them articles and information about the dangers of tear gas. (I will do my best to continue making material available through this website. If you have resources you would like to add, please email banteargasnow@hotmail.com.) Tell the “authorities” you will not stand for the deployment of chemical weapons on citizens.

In the meantime: When you protest, do so non-violently – for the safety of those who are not as strong, do not give the police justification for dispensing this “crowd control method”. If you are exposed, seek medical attention and help others do the same.

Do not just brush it off as a temporary nuisance. Tear gas is a Chemical Weapon. Any nation that uses chemical weapons on its own citizenry is not free, and any country that exports it for the abuse of other countries’ citizens is not just.

Mission

Tear gas is the term used to label a group of chemical weapons meant to incapacitate (temporarily) a population for the goal of crowd control. There is no way to safely deploy a chemical weapon on a population, and there is no way to target it to hit only criminal elements, even when there is a hint of justification for an authority to use it. Children, the elderly, or those with medical conditions such as pregnancy or asthma are particularly prone to its effects. While it is unethical to test the effects of tear gas in laboratory subjects on human pregnancy, there have been increasing numbers of self-reports by women who attribute their miscarriages to exposure to tear gas. It is my goal to collect and provide these reports to you, along with other news and scholarly research so that this danger can be recognized for what it truly is. Use the information, don’t just read it. Write your local authorities, your government, the makers and distributors of this weapon, your friends: tell them why tear gas needs to be outlawed once and for all.

If you want to contribute articles, research, or artwork, write banteargasnow@hotmail.com.

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