Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Communities United Against Police Brutality

Communities United Against Police Brutality
October 11, 2008

SPONSORED BY Communities United Against Police Brutality
ENDORSED BY Coldsnap Legal Collective, Community RNC Arrestee Support Structure (CRASS), National Lawyers Guild, Welfare Rights Committee, other individuals and organizations (list in formation).

including Bruce Nestor (NLG), Pablo Tapia (League of Hispanic Voters), Robin Magee (Hamline law professor and Minnesota 8 Defense Committee), Leah Lane (RNC protester abused for peaceful overtures toward police), Martha Fasthorse (community organizer), Jude Ortiz (community organizer with Coldsnap Legal Collective, Arise bookstore), Al Flowers (Northside community organizer), and others.

From mass police brutality during the RNC to the everyday brutality against people of color and poor people in the streets and in the jails, something has got to be done to end the reign of terror.

Come out and demand REAL solutions:
  • We need a real civilian review authority that holds cops accountable and isn’t just a rubber stamp agency!
  • End beatings and abuse in the jails­and prosecute brutal jailers!
  • No more bogus charges against police brutality victims. Prosecute brutal cops!
  • Drop ALL charges against RNC arrestees. Dissent is not a crime!
  • Fire cops who lie in police reports or in court!
LET IT BE KNOWN we will no longer be silent in the face of police brutality!

4:30 p.m.
More than a dozen people have died at the hands of law enforcement officers in Minnesota in the past year and the list gets tragically longer ever year. These people can no longer speak for themselves. We must speak for them. Join us as we commemorate these Stolen Lives.
Sunday, October 26 ­ 6:00 p.m.
Walker Community Church
3104 16th Avenue South, Minneapolis
Keep in mind the recent announcement that the army is deploying troops on US soil as well as the militarization of policing seen on the streets of St. Paul and Minneapolis during the RNC. As the economy goes to hell and McBush tries to figure out how to steal another election, one can easily see these and other dangerous weapons being used to crush all dissent.

Army Orders Pain Ray Trucks; New Report Shows 'Potential for Death'
By David Hambling
October 10, 2008


After years of testing, the Active Denial System -- the pain ray which drives off rioters with a microwave-like beam -- could finally have its day. The Army is buying five of the truck-mounted systems for $25 million. But the energy weapon may face new hurdles, before it's shipped off to the battlefield; a new report details how the supposedly non-lethal blaster could be turned into a flesh-frying killer.

The contract for the pain ray trucks is "expected to be awarded by year's end," Aviation Week notes. "A year after the contract is signed, the combination vehicle/weapons will start be fielded at the rate of one per month."

It's been a very long time coming. As we've previously reported, there have been calls to deploy the Active Denial System in Iraq going back to 2004. But it's always been delayed for legal, political, and public relations reasons. Anything that might be condemned as torture is political dynamite. Interestingly, the version being bought is not the full-size "Version 2," but a containerized system known as Silent Guardian, which Raytheon have been trying to sell for some time. They describe Silent Guardian as "roughly 1/3 the size and power of the other Active Denial Systems," and quote it's range as "greater than 250 meters." The larger system has a range somewhere in excess of 700 meters.

Silent Guardian weighs a shade over 10,000 pounds all up, and will be mounted on an "armored ruggedized HEMTT [ Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck]."

The announcement arrives on the same day as a new report from less-lethal weapons expert Dr. J├╝rgen Altmann that analyzes the physics of several directed energy weapons, including Active Denial, the Advanced Tactical Laser (used as a non-lethal weapon), the Pulsed Energy Projectile (a.k.a. "Maximum Pain" laser) and the Long Range Acoustic Device (a.k.a. "Acoustic Blaster").

Dr. Altmann describes the Active Denial beam in some detail, noting that it will not be completely uniform; anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the center will experience more heating than someone at the edge. And perhaps more significant is his thorough analysis of the heating it produces -- and the cumulative effect if the target does not have the chance to cool down between exposures. In U.S. military tests, a fifteen-second delay between exposures was strictly observed; this may not happen when the ADS is used for real.

"As a consequence, the ADS provides the technical possibility to produce burns of second and third degree. Because the beam of diameter 2 m and above is wider than human size, such burns would occur over considerable parts of the body, up to 50% of its surface. Second- and third-degree burns covering more than 20% of the body surface are potentially life-threatening – due to toxic tissue-decay products and increased sensitivity to infection – and require intensive care in a specialized unit. Without a technical device that reliably prevents re-triggering on the same target subject, the ADS has a potential to produce permanent injury or death. "

This potential hazard need not be a show-stopper -- existing less-lethals, such as plastic bullets and tear gas, can also be fatal under some circumstances (and I'm not even going to get into the argument about Tasers).

Dr. Altmann notes that "the present analysis has not found convincing arguments that the ADS would be immoral or illegal in each foreseeable circumstance," and that acceptance will depend very much on how it is used. If the ADS prevents small boats from approaching a U.S. vessel without harming anyone, then it will be seen as a humane option. If it is used to clear protesters out of the way it may be seen differently.

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Justice still has a reported interest in a "hand-held, probably rifle-sized, short range weapon that could be effective at tens of feet for law enforcement officials." That's just one of the likely domestic applications of Active Denial technology which are likely to follow if the Army's experiment with ADS is successful. A lot of people will be watching this one very closely.
Controversy Grows As Taser Expands Scope
by Andy Greenberg
October 6, 2008 by

Sitting idle, the Taser Shockwave looks like a waist-high rack of square green teeth. But press a button, and those teeth--six electrified cartridges tethered by 25-foot wires--shoot out in a 20-degree arc. Inch-long probes emitting 50,000 volts of electricity pierce through clothing and skin. If a human being is in their path, his or her muscles immediately flex and lock involuntarily.

Use Shockwave defensively to create a perimeter around rioters, as police demonstrated in a training exercise on California's Treasure Island earlier this month, and a mob of unruly individuals can be corralled into a corner. Or fire the device into a crowd, and several targets go down in a temporarily paralyzed heap.

Shockwave, set to be deployed sometime in 2009, is one of several powerful new "less-lethal" devices coming closer to being used in the real world, as opposed to just test situations. And it's not the only experimental toy soon to be sold by Phoenix-based Taser International. Other products being tested by the company include a taser shell that can be fired from any shotgun and a taser laminate film that can electrify the surface of a traditional riot shield.

From Taser's perspective, these science-fiction-like weapons are new and more effective ways to control dangerous situations without using deadly force. But in the eyes of the company's critics, Taser is expanding the scope of a controversial technology that has yet to be proven safe.

Taser's Extended-Range Electronic Projectile (XREP), for instance, is the first electrically incapacitating weapon that can be fired from a gun. Unlike Taser's older products, which shoot an electrically charged cartridge tethered by a 25-foot wire, the XREP is designed to be loaded into a normal firearm. After it's fired from the gun's barrel, small fins extend that cause the cartridge to spin like a rifle round and fly accurately up to 100 feet.


When the XREP shell hits someone, short probes pierce his or her skin or clothing. A metal barb attached by a wire falls out from the back of the capsule to create another point of contact on the target's body, unleashing an electrical current through the body's muscles and causing them to spasm. If the target grabs at the XREP round and touches the wire, it routes another jolt of current through the clutching hand.

Violent as the new devices may sound, Taser argues that the XREP and Shockwave both hold the promise of defusing a wider range of dangerous situations than ever before without resorting to lethal force or putting police in dangerous situations. "Police officers are paid to enforce the law, not to get hurt," says Taser spokesman Steve Tuttle. "Police need this. That's why we've survived the controversy around our products."

But Dalia Hashad, director of human rights for Amnesty International in the U.S., calls the weapons "something out of a bad video game." She argues that the Shockwave and XREP are unproven technologies that could be used indiscriminately.

Since U.S. police first began using tasers in 2000, 350 people have died in police custody after being stunned by the devices, according to Amnesty International's count. In 40 of those cases, tasers were listed by the coroner as a possible cause of death, Hashad says, and in many cases, the victim was elderly, under the influence of drugs or mentally ill.

Those kinds of victims are the most likely to suffer injuries from being stunned, she adds. And trying to discern when a taser should be used appropriately becomes complicated when a taser's range is extended or the Shockwave is fired at multiple targets. "There's no individual assessment," Hashad says. "We're asking police to consider whether someone they're about to 'tase' is an appropriate candidate given all the risks. How can they do that for six people at once?"

She adds that the XREP's default setting delivers a 20-second shock, compared with the five-second shock of a traditional taser. That kind of prolonged incapacitation, she argues, is typically the most likely to lead to injuries or deaths. "It raises very significant questions about how the length of the shock time affects the human body," she says.

Taser recently suffered a public-relations blow when a jury found the company partially liable for the death of 40-year-old Robert Heston, a Salinas, Calif., resident who suffered a heart attack and died after being tased three times. The company was ordered to pay $6.2 million to Heston's family. That case was the only lawsuit that Taser has lost of the 75 suits brought against the company, though others have been settled out of court.

Taser spokesman Tuttle flatly denies that anyone has ever died from being tased. Heston, he points out, was under the influence of methamphetamines, and the jury determined that Taser was only partially responsible for his death. Tuttle also argues that the coroner reports Amnesty International refers to only imply that a taser "wasn't ruled out" as a cause of death.

In fact, Tuttle says that the taser's electrical current is as painful as static shock from a door knob. "It doesn't hurt," says Tuttle, who's been tased himself several times. "Don't get me wrong, it's uncomfortable. It kind of feels like hitting your funny bone 18 times per second throughout your whole body."

And the question of whether devices like XREP and Shockwave will mean tasers are used less discriminately? "No one conducts a field interview before applying a taser," Tuttle says. "The situation must meet police-department requirements and use-of-force guidelines, or it's a civil rights violation. That's how it's always been deployed against suspects in dangerous situations."

Taser International, of course, isn't the only one developing new, controversial less-lethal weapons. The military's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWP) is testing a variety of new ways to stun and incapacitate enemy combatants including "flash-bang" grenades that create noise and light to disorient targets, as well as a two-foot diameter laser that can temporarily blind a vehicle's driver at around 600 feet. The so-called Active Denial System, a heat ray that can make targets feel as if their skin is catching fire without actually inflicting damage, is also under development.

But even the military, which has used traditional tasers in the field since 2004, has doubts about Taser International's new toys. "We're doing a lot of testing to make sure they don't kill people," says John Keenan, the JNLWP's director of science and technology. "We have to understand the health effects associated with them. If we're calling something a non-lethal weapon, we have to make sure it's not lethal."

Denver cops get T-shirts that mock DNC protesters
September 29 2008
Contributed by: Anonymous

Denver's police union is facing criticism for printing a commemorative T-shirt that makes light of the use of violence by police, particularly in the wake of 154 arrests during the week of Democratic National Convention this past August.

"We get up early, to BEAT the crowds," the shirt reads, followed by "2008 DNC." The words flank a grinning police officer holding a baton and wearing a hat with a crossed-out number "68," presumably making reference to activist organization Recreate 68, which staged several anti-war demonstrations during the convention.

"The people of Denver were assured by the city that it would respect First Amendment rights during the DNC, and that that police officers were being trained to do so. The actions of police during the DNC, which involved numerous violations of people's right to freedom of speech and assembly, put the lie to those promises," said Recreate 68's Glenn Spagnuolo. "And now this appalling, tasteless t-shirt shows why. The members of Denver's police union clearly have no respect for the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The Denver Police Department Operations Manual includes a Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, which begins, 'As a Law Enforcement Officer, my fundamental duty is to serve mankind, to safeguard lives and property, to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.' The creation of this t-shirt makes a mockery of that statement."

Detective Nick Rogers of the Police Protective Association said that the union predicts sales of about 2,000 shirts in addition to the ones given free to Denver police officers, and also told KMGH (
) that he hadn't received any complaints about the shirt.

A picture of the design, courtesy of KMGH, can be viewed at
Communities United Against Police Brutality
3100 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)
Meetings: Every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Walker Church, 3104 16th Avenue South

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