Ban Tear Gas Now!

Stop using chemical weapons on citizens of any nation.

Archive for the tag “chemical weapons”

Fighting Giants

This is the start of my day. Every day, two years and counting. How do I get closure? Am I closer or farther? Why am I fighting Goliath when most days I don’t even know what I did with my slingshot?

There are a series of smaller fights that must take place every day, but I can’t stop until the bigger fight is won. Every day my thoughts are focused on how do I make others understand the importance of my mission to ban the production, distribution, and use of tear gas, and then from there, how do I use that shared understanding to effect change.

Right now, I am gathering rocks. Like this one. Or this one.

Every day I put more information in my arsenal.

While I’m gathering ammunition I may be missing sight of other opportunities to win the war, but this is all I can do until I find that damn slingshot.

Please join my cause. Help stand up for those who can’t. Write your local authorities about the ethics of using chemical weapons on citizens. Challenge politicians, bureaucrats, producers and distributors of “less lethal” technologies who profit from killing and denying citizens their basic rights. You can contact Combined Tactical Systems at 724-932-2177. Leave a voicemail for CEO Don Smith, who is conveniently out for the day.

Share this mission with others who are willing to fight. You can also show support by liking the Ban Tear Gas Now! Facebook page and following us on Twitter @BanTearGasNow.

Link to Katriel’s “Health impact of Tear Gas?”

And another older work by an author from 2006, Jacob Katriel, who tried to get answers about tear gas from a military representative of the Israeli Governmental Radio. Read what he wrote here.

Link to Terry Allen’s article, “Chemical Cops: Tear Gas And Pepper Spray Can Be Deadly”

This article addresses the dangers of tear gas and pepper spray after the 1999 Seattle WTO riots. Although 13 years have passed since Terry Allen wrote about the dangers of allowing corporations to define safety of these weapons, what has changed?

Chemical Weapons Deployed in Syria

According to a NBC news report, chemical weapons were deployed against Syrian citizens yesterday, killing 25 (so far):

 

“There was ‘a state of panic and fear among the civilians and dozens of cases of suffocating and poisoning,’ [Rebel spokesman Fahd al Masry] said.

Masry said the attack would not have happened if foreign governments had taken stronger action.

‘They wouldn’t have used it if not for the silence of the international community on the crimes and massacres committed in Syria for the past two years,’ he said.”

 

I can only state the obvious. This is a tragic abuse of power, that in order to retain authority at any costs, so many can be killed – indiscriminately at that. And it will continue to happen over and over again, in Syria and other locations across the globe, if the vulnerable are left to fend for themselves.

I’d be interested to know what others think should happen in this case. What are concrete measures that can be taken to stop this from happening again, and to give some sense of justice to those who have lost loved ones in this attack. I’d especially want to hear from those familiar with the region. Post your thoughts in the comments below.

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

Justice

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of when I learned how quickly the joy of becoming a mother could turn into terror, as I was exposed to tear gas while chaperoning a field trip for the University of Washington in Athens, Greece. It was the start of panicked phone calls home to the States, trying to get straight answers from former colleagues with medical expertise and US doctors at Harborview, Seattle, and the US Poison Control.  It was the start of two years of regrets. What if I had been more protective of the living being inside my body instead of feeling the need to remain calm and carry out my responsibility to my employer (an employer who felt no such reciprocal responsibility to me), to make sure that legally adult students were safe enough to attend an AEK soccer game. This was such an “important” event that men fought each other in parking lots. Police sprayed tear gas. And my baby died because I unknowingly walked into the middle of a battlefield as part of my job.

Anything can happen in a free world, but it’s a shame that we let this be an excuse for violence to continue. Why can the unpredictable nature of reality never work in favor of peace? What if peace just suddenly happened because it was more logical than inflicting pain? What if ethics just suddenly became a part of bureaucrats’ vocabulary? What if politicians stopped accepting payouts from weapons manufacturers and lobbyists, and stopped authorizing weapons that do more harm to the public than good? What if authorities stopped poisoning entire civilian populations with weapons banned for use in warfare, and what if there were no longer profit to be made off the suffering of others? What if the administration of the University of Washington Seattle just all of a sudden decided to pay the medical costs of the woman who was injured while trying to be a good employee?

Let’s ask.

Ask the President of the United States why the US still produces and distributes tear gas, when other countries have long recognized the dangers of this indiscriminate weapon:

Phone:

Comments: 202-456-1111

Switchboard: 202-456-1414

TTY/TTD

Comments: 202-456-6213

Visitor’s Office: 202-456-2121

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments

Don’t just ask the Manufacturers which profit off the deaths of others: protest them.

Combined Systems Inc. 

https://www.combinedsystems.com/

Defense Technology/Federal Laboratories/BAE

http://www.defense-technology.com/

NonLethal Technologies

http://www.nonlethaltechnologies.com/

And if you have time after that, ask the UW administration why they forced an employee who lost her child while working for them to navigate an endless mine field of red tape for two years rather than pay for her medical expenses:

University of Washington President Michael Young

301 Gerberding Hall
Box 351230
Seattle, WA 98195
Phone: 206-543-5010
Email: pres@uw.edu

Justice and peace won’t spontaneously occur. Use your freedom to make a more better world. Act today.

Suzanne

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.

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