The arms firm behind the suppression of #OccupyOakland and Palestine's popular struggle
With the rise of the Occupy Wall Street, a new generation of mostly middle class Americans is learning for the first time about the militarization of their local police forces. And they are learning the hard way, through confrontations with phalanxes of riot cops armed with the latest in "non-lethal" crowd control weaponry. Yesterday's protests in Oakland, California were the site of perhaps the harshest police violence leveled against the Occupy movement so far. Members of the Oakland Police Department and the California Sheriff's Department attacked unarmed protesters with teargas canisters, beanbag rounds, percussion grenades, and allegedly with rubber bullets, leaving a number of demonstrators with deep contusions and bloody head wounds. It is not difficult to imagine such scenes becoming commonplace as the Occupy protests intensify across the country.
The police repression on display in Oakland reminded me of tactics I witnessed the Israeli army employ against Palestinian popular struggle demonstrations in occupied West Bank villages like Nabi Saleh, Ni'lin and Bilin. So I was not surprised when I learned that the same company that supplies the Israeli army with teargas rounds and other weapons of mass suppression is selling its dangerous wares to the Oakland police. The company is Defense Technology, a Casper, Wyoming based arms firm that claims to "specialize in less lethal technology" and other "crowd management products." Defense Tech sells everything from rubber-coated teargas rounds that bounce in order to maximize gas dispersal to 40 millimeter "direct impact" sponge rounds to "specialty impact" 12 gauge rubber bullets.
[Left: a teargas round fired at Occupy Oakland was manufactured in Casper, Wyoming, the home of Defense Technology]
Defense Tech's literature concedes that "information is somewhat difficult to obtain" on the damage its weapons can do to the human body. However, company researchers were able to determine that a beanbag round fired from a 12 gauge shotgun exerts the same kinetic impact as a .22 caliber bullet. "The result is blunt trauma with no penetration," Defense Tech researchers wrote. Wounds suffered yesterday by protesters in Oakland provided vivid confirmation of the conclusion.
Defense Tech products have injured numerous protesters attending the weekly demonstrations in Bilin, an occupied Palestinian village waging an unarmed struggle against Israel's confiscation of its farmland in order to build its separation wall. Jawaher Abu Rahme, a 36-year-old resident of Bilin, died this year of asphyxiation from Israeli tear gas rounds. Her brother, Bassem, was killed two years earlier when he was struck in the chest by a high velocity teargas shell (see video of his killing here). Activists arriving on the scene after Jawaher Abu Rahme's death found spent teargas shells marked with the Defense Tech label.
[Left: Occupy Oakland demonstrators retrieved a shotgun shell used to propel beanbag rounds and an alleged rubber bullet]
Some Occupy Wall Street activists have argued that Palestine must remain segregated from the movement's agenda. It is a distraction from the essential economic issues that drive the protests, they say, and turns the majority of Americans off. But the issue is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid now that the protesters are confronted with the very same weapons Israel uses to crush unarmed Palestinian resistance.
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