Pepper-gassed in Pittsburgh

September 25, 2009

I got my second dose of G20 pepper gas right outside my hotel.

After a long day following protesters and reporting on their clashes with police, I was exhausted. But just as I switched off the light in my hotel room I could hear the tell-tale sound of a Long Range Acoustic Device.

The police had been using the LRAD’s high-pitched, piercing noise (along with “beanbag” projectiles and the good old-fashioned baton) all day. Sure enough, when I looked out the window I saw a few protesters had come to me for once, and were moving from Pitt University toward our hotel on Forbes Ave.

It was after midnight but I still went downstairs to check it out. I passed very few people on the street and a saw a couple of hundred students looking down from their dorm balcony, taking pictures. I wouldn’t describe them as protesters — it was just where they lived.

I moved into the side street and waited for a line of riot police to move on so I could check out reports that business windows has been smashed.

The police moved forward and the two on the end of the line turned towards me. One nudged the other who then sprayed pepper spray directly at me. When I started to run he threw a larger canister of pepper gas in my direction.

The Secret Service, which is coordinating security in Pittsburgh during the summit has taken exception to descriptions of the gas as “tear gas.” Instead they said “CS vapor,” which is similar to pepper spray, was used by police. I had my first unpleasant experience earlier in the day.

It gets in your eyes, nose and throat, stinging and making you cough so much you are nearly sick.

As the police passed the students on their dorm balcony they sprayed pepper gas up towards them, causing them all to run back into their dorm. Several other students told me they the police had indiscriminately sprayed them.

“We were just looking, then there were loud sirens and then it was hard to breath and I was coughing up a lung,” said Pitt student Dustin DeMeglio, 19.

YouTube user pincus27 shot this video from the balcony.

Pincus27 wrote on the video caption: “As we were stupidly leaning over the balcony of our dorm, a riot was taking place and the police shot teargas up to get us off the ledge. This is not a bad reflection of the police, but rather evidence of our poor judgment.”


More video from Pitt dorms:


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Pittsburgh police on Thursday used an audio cannon manufactured by American Technology Corp (ATCO), a San Diego-based company, to disperse protesters outside the G-20 Summit — the first time its LRAD series device has been used on civilians in the U.S.

An ATC sales representative confirms to DailyFinance that Pittsburgh police used ATC’s Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD). “Yes, we sold one LRAD unit to a government agency — I don’t know which one — which was used in Pittsburgh,” the representative said.

Posted by John Emerson | Report as abusive

You have the right to peacefully assemble, and the right to be part of a political group seeking to petition government legitimately.

And if you form a large mass in the streets without permission, you have the right to be sprayed in the face by mace. It is the sign of a lawful society.

Could you imagine a nation where angry mobs could take control of the streets from the public? What a horrible frightening place that would be.

You have to share the streets with the public and the nation. If you decide to take control of the street for a selfish protest, then expect the police to respond.

In fact, the burning sensation you feel in your face is the feeling of freedom. The freedom that the common person gains, by ensuring that angry mobs can’t use numbers and threats to do as they please.

If you want something, sign a petition. That is the constitutional right you have. What the police do is ensure you don’t affect the rights of others with your mobbish ways.

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

It’s a sad day when police gas people in their own homes. Land of the Free…..

Posted by disgusting | Report as abusive

People standing on a balcony can drop bricks or other objects on police. That was why the police launched gas up there.

Even the people on the balcony admit that it was a stupid thing to do to watch a riot. Especially when the riot police are looking for possible threats.

Tear gas in the face is harmless. A brick thrown from an upper story window is a deadly threat. So if a bunch of people refuse to move away from a balcony during a riot, a police response is not unusual.

And at the end of the day, the cops allowed them to move out, and even pointed them in a safe direction.

Posted by Hmmm | Report as abusive

Brace yourselves America. As our dissatisfaction with our government’s policies and the futility of taking problems up with elected corporate meat puppets increases, this kind of thing will happen more and more. I wonder when it will escalate to the point live ammunition will be used as was the case at Kent State University. That disaster was over the Viet Nam war,,this one is farther reaching in the scope of misery spread across America. The fact that Pincus27 views himself as foolish for watching without placing any responsibility on the police for being heavy handed is scary in my mind. The usual reaction to that is to raise the bar until the line is crossed. Pitt police should be admonished early and vehemently before we have a replay of the sixties.

Posted by Unemployed | Report as abusive

I don’t understand why I get censored by the Macroscope blog. Are my comments inflammatory?

Posted by Unemployed | Report as abusive

“You have a right to peaceful assembly”, but when permission is denied then the assembly becomes a mob.”

Think about it. You really don’t have that right unless government grants it, therefore in reality we are only dreaming that you have that right.

Why is it, when some other nation has an unlawful assembly, we call it “fighting for democracy” or “freedom fighters” but when we have such assembly at home, our powers-to-be have embedded in our minds such as being a mob.

Posted by ddavid | Report as abusive

All Americans have the right to peaceful assembly.

Emphisis on the word “peaceful”. For other non-peaceful assembly, we have the wonders of tear gas.

Forming large mobs without permission, taking control of the streets from the public and attempting to use numbers to intimidate and disrupt? Not peaceful assembly by any definition of the word.

A mob is a mob is a mob. It is not the cause, but the behavior, that defines whether the word applies.

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive

Crowd control isn’t accomplished with violence be it non-lethal or not. It’s a short jump from pepper spray to bullets. Remember Kent State?

Posted by Unemployed | Report as abusive