Protestors who ignored curfew complaining police used a ‘sonic weapon’ on them. Spoiler alert: It was a loudspeaker.

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Orlando, FL— As hundreds of people marched through the streets of downtown Orlando on June 5th, a booming speaker attached to the back of a nearby pickup truck announced a very clear warning to the protesters:

“Orlando curfew will go into effect at 8 p.m.—please give yourself ample time to get into your vehicles and clear the area before it goes into effect.”  

It is not uncommon for police departments or even protesters themselves to use speakers, bullhorns, and the like to make announcements during protests. 

However, photos and videos of the speaker used in the Orlando protests soon began to circulate on social media, some describing it as a “sonic weapon.”  This speaker, also known as a long-range acoustic device, or LRAD has been described by some as a “car alarm from hell.” and if you aren’t careful, it could permanently damage your hearing.

The LRAD was originally created for the military after the attack on USS Cole in 2000.  It has since been marketed to domestic law enforcement and public safety agencies as a “super-power” bullhorn that is capable of delivering commands during chaotic situations like mass shootings or search-and-rescue operations. 

The two primary law enforcement agencies involved in policing Orlando’s recent protests are the Orlando Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, both of which have LRADs.  Both agencies have said that their devices were only used to make announcements. 

Autumn Jones, spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department said:

“The high-pitch alarm tone heard after the announcement is a function of the device that occurs automatically before the operator starts to speak, to get the crowd’s attention that an announcement is coming.” 

Jones also said that when using the device at the demonstration on June 4th, “officers set its volume to half power.”   

In response to the photos on social media of the device and questions from local lawmakers, the Orlando Police Department released a statement the following day, saying, in part:

“[The device is] essentially a high-end P.A. system used to safely communicate critical instructions across a large crowd of people.

“While the agency uses this device, the equipment rumored on social media including damage to hearing, involves a military-grade version of this equipment, which our agency is NOT using and does NOT own.”

The Orlando Police Department also said that the images being “shared” on social media were not of its LRAD, but of the one used by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office

Michelle Guido, an Orange County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said in an email:

“The LRAD was used for curfew announcements. Deputies use their device only as a public-address system.” 

David Schnell, the vice president for Genasys, the company that created the system, confirmed that statement and said that some departments even ask the company to disable its deterrent sound function, which blares the alarm-like screeching noise.

In contrast to this, Adam Wandt, an assistant professor of public policy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who studies technology and policy said:

“Even when used as a public announcement system, an LRAD may cause hearing damage to those standing within 15 to 20 feet of it…everything I know about LRAD says that it is not safe.”

Wandt went on to say:

“LRADs use highly focused sound waves, almost like a laser and just like a sonic boom could break glass windows, it is possible that LRAD, if someone is in front of it, could cause some irritation or damage to the brain.” 

Schnell called that description “not factually accurate” and said there’s “nothing inherent to the technology that makes an LRAD more dangerous than any other loud speaker.” 

Schnell also said:

“Our sounds are put on a sound within the human hearing spectrum—protecting the human hearing, we’re very cognizant of that.” 

The exact number of police departments that own LRADs is currently unknown, but they are relatively easy for departments to acquire under a federal program known as 1033, which gives law enforcement and other municipal agencies access to surplus military equipment. 

Many agencies have in their arsenal military-grade weapons, vehicles, and other gear that is used to serve and protect, especially in dangerous situations. 

 

For anyone keeping tabs, now police are being banned from using LRAD’s for crowd dispersal, and lawsuits are being filed against departments for using tear gas. Apparently police are just supposed to ask super nicely for rioting, looting, violent people to leave an area and hope that works.

Here’s a report from Law Enforcement Today on a class action suit against Portland Police for tear gas use.

 

 
Apparently, rioters in Portland, Oregon are unappreciative of police using tear gas to disperse violent crowds while protecting businesses from being destroyed.

According to KGW8 in Portland, a group called “Don’t Shoot Portland,” as well as some of those who were rioting in the city have filed a class action lawsuit against the city over the use of tear gas during their “demonstrations” last week, the Oregon Justice Resource Center said.

For our reader’s edification, we have included tweets of some of the “peaceful protests.” 

“Police have unleashed tear gas on crowds, including the plaintiffs, who have hot committed any crimes and posed no threat to anyone else but were exercising their right to free speech,” said OJRK spokesperson Alice Lundell.

Far left Mayor Ted Wheeler said Friday that the use of tear gas against “protesters” is “ugly” and said that he agrees with activists that the practice should be stopped.

“I’m not willing to say today I would ban it,” Wheeler said, “without acknowledging we need to know there are viable alternatives that don’t include a higher use of force,” while saying he hoped the city could find other means to disperse crowds.

https://twitter.com/KimmyChen7/status/1266909164111982592

However, Friday night Wheeler told rioters that he supported a 30-day ban on the use of tear gas, which is similar to a policy the city of Seattle implemented. He said that an announcement would be forthcoming on Saturday.

That is exactly what happened.

CNN reported that on Saturday, Wheeler had told the chief of police that the practice of deploying tear gas was to cease “unless there is a serious and immediate threat to life safety and there is no other viable alternative for dispersal.”

“I stand in solidarity with our non-violent demonstrators, who are sending a strong message that we are long overdue for meaningful reform and restorative justice,” Wheeler said in a tweet.

Wheelers move follows a letter that was sent to Oregon’s mayors, city managers, and police chiefs from American Civil Liberties Union Oregon in which they asked them to ban the use of tear gas and flash bang devices into crowds.

“Using tear gas and other chemical weapons that attack respiratory systems, cause coughing and make it hard to breathe in response to the protests about the longstanding racial injustices in our communities is excessive and morally repugnant,” the letter said.

There was no mention of  police officers who had been assaulted, nor buildings which had been damaged.

The missive came a day after another night of “protests” turned violent, where police again used tear gas after officers were assaulted with projectiles.

The Multnomah County Sheriff’s office said in a tweet that officers were assaulted with bricks, glass bottles, blades, ball bearings, mortars and batteries. The rioting occurred outside the Justice Center, where 400 people were working at the time.

Representatives for the rioters were looking for an immediate moratorium on the use of tear gas, however, ultimately are looking for a permanent ban.

“By nature, tear gas can only be used indiscriminately,” said attorney Maya Rinta of Albies & Stark, which is representing the plaintiffs in the suit.

“When clouds of chemical weapons are in the air, everyone close by will breathe them in and be harmed…it’s a particularly dangerous act in the midst of a pandemic, since the effects of ear gas could amplify the spread of COVID-19.”


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Apparently, rioting in public while failing to maintain social distance isn’t a problem, unless you’re having a backyard party where the number of participants has been limited.

The rioters also have allies in the medical community, including Oregon Health and Science University President Danny Jacobs.

“The release of airborne droplets through tear-gas induced coughing could accelerate the spread of COVID-19 and lead to a surge in new cases,” Jacobs said. “Damage to the respiratory tract can put individuals at greater risk of adverse outcomes if they become infected with COVID-19.”

 Jacobs did not recommend that the greatest way to avoid being exposed to tear gas is not to participate in riots targeting police officers.

Try to follow along here. The police apparently are to blame for the riots in Portland. It is the police who are apparently causing harm by responding to rioters, not the rioters themselves who are destroying property and assaulting those same police officers.

“For weeks we’ve been told to protect against the coronavirus, and we have shut down the country to achieve that,” said Don’t Shoot Portland spokesperson Teressa Raiford. “Now suddenly the city doesn’t care about the risks of COVID-19 when we are fighting for our lives.”

On Friday morning, before the nightly riot downtown, Portland Deputy Chief of Police Chris Davis defended police use of tear gas, saying that it is deployed only after police warn rioters that they need to disperse.

Lundell complained that Portland police had used tear gas against protesters on five nights since the “protests” began as they “protested” near the Multnomah County Justice Center.

In addition to Don’t Shoot Portland, other plaintiffs include Nicholas Roberts and Michelle “Misha” Belden from Portland.

In yet another lawsuit filed against the city, KATU-2 is reporting another upstanding citizen is exercising his First Amendment rights to engage in riots by claiming that officers “launched projectiles” at him, causing him to get bruises on his arm and abdomen. He will apparently survive the bruising.

Philip Elias, who is suing the city for battery and seeking up to $250,000 for his bruising said officers used a “military style” weapon (aka scary looking) to fire projectiles at him.

His attorney, Michael Fuller told KATU that he has been “contacted by several protesters” seeking representation in order to file lawsuits, and like a good ambulance chaser, we’re sure he would be happy to oblige.

“We have been contacted by several peaceful protesters that have been attacked by military style weapons by the Portland police over the last several days,” said Fuller, with the cutely named Underdog Law Service. “This individual ended up with large scarring on his abdomen and his arm.”

Fuller said he didn’t know what Elias was struck with, however said his story is similar to what he is hearing from other people engaged in Portland’s riots.

“My client hopes that be filing this lawsuit, he might create a change to protect other peaceful protesters in the future.”

Portland officials did not comment for KATU due to pending litigation.

Remember..peaceful protests.

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