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Sep. 27 2009 - 11:20 am | 272 views | 1 recommendation | 19 comments

Police experiment with new weapon on protesters during G-20

A demonstrator stands in front of a police line outside Schenley Park in Pittsburgh at the G-20 summit. (AP Photo/Ross Mantle)

Pittsburgh police demonstrated the latest in crowd control techniques on protesters when they used “sound cannons” to blast the ears of citizens near the G-20 meeting of world economic leaders. City officials said this was the first time such sound blasters, also known as “sound weapons,” were used publicly.

Lavonnie Bickerstaff of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police uses benign language like “sound amplifiers,” and “long-range acoustic device” to explain the new weapons in an attempt to sanitize what is essentially a painful weapon that leaves no visible marks on its victims. The mob utilized a similar tactic on snitches when they would beat everywhere except the face. If victims have no outward bruises to show, the world is less likely to believe their stories of assault and harassment.

Unlike aerosol hand-grenades, pepper spray, and rubber bullets (all traditional methods of protest suppression also used at the G-20 protests,) the damage from sound cannons is entirely internal, and can only be preserved on video, but even then, the deafening noise cannot be fully appreciated unless one hears it in person.

(Footage of the sound cannons in action can be seen/heard below. It’s clear from these videos that the extremely loud, high-pitched noise causes pain.)

The “long range acoustic device (LRAD)” is designed for long-range communication and acts as an “unmistakable warning,” according to the American Technology Corporation (ATC,) which develops the instruments. “The LRAD basically is the ability to communicate clearly from 300 meters to 3 kilometers” (nearly 2 miles), said Robert Putnam of American Technology’s media and investor relations during an interview with MSNBC. “It’s a focused output. What distinguishes it from other communications tools out there is its ability to be heard clearly and intelligibly at a distance, unlike bullhorns.”

Except, police aren’t trying to send a distress call to allies 2 miles away. They’re literally blasting this extreme decibel of noise directly into the ears of protesters (or any unwitting citizens) standing mere feet from the cannons. Depending on the mode of LRAD, it can blast a maximum sound of 145 to 151 decibels — equal to a gunshot — within a 3-foot (one meter) range, according to ATC. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that permanent hearing loss can result from sounds at about 110 to 120 decibels in short bursts or even just 75 decibels if exposure lasts for long periods.

But there is a volume knob, Putnam notes, so its output can be less than max, purportedly to give us comfort in the knowledge that deafening citizens is left to the discretion of power-hungry police. On the decibel scale, an increase of 10 (say, from 70 to 80) means that a sound is 10 times more intense. Normal traffic noise can reach 85 decibels, reports MSNBC, but these sound cannons cannot be compared to standing beside a busy New York City road.

The BBC reported in 2005 that the “shrill sound of an LRAD at its loudest sounds something like a domestic smoke alarm, ATC says, but at 150 decibels, it is the aural equivalent to standing 30m away from a roaring jet engine and can cause major hearing damage if misused.”

This technology has been deployed in Iraq as an “anti-insurgent weapon,” and the sonic weaponry is also being used on protesters in HondurasSeattle Weekly reports that this weapon could easily be used as a torture tool if one doesn’t already think this is its only use.

Sonic weaponry is now being deployed domestically to put a chill on free speech. We’re told this is the “humane” way to deal with protesters, but it’s really just a convenient way to suppress citizens without the messy aftereffects of having to explain bullet holes to reporters. A bunch of protesters complaining about ruptured ear drums doesn’t make for dramatic news.

Footage of the sound cannons in action:


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  1. collapse expand

    Hasn’t there been a microwave weapon they’ve been working on for a while that they started to use in Iraq? I wonder if that’s going to come over.

    • collapse expand

      I’m sure they’re itching to use the Active Denial System on us the way they’ve used it on Iraqi, Afghan, and Palestinian civilians. The beam is intolerable after less than 5 seconds of exposure. That’s much more effective from their perspective than the LRAD. Also, anyone with a cell phone, coins in their pockets, eyeglasses, belt buckles, zippers, wristwatch, rings, piercings, etc, could receive serious burns from hot spots caused by the microwaves.

      When a weapon which causes unbearable pain yet leaves no physical mark is employed by the American government, widespread abuses are inevitable. The US marines and police have been working on portable versions while the US air force is currently building a system for crowd-control from the air. If you’re going to protest anything from now on, I recommend leaving your Prince Albert at home.

      You’ll notice these “non-lethal” devices get more and more dangerous each time a new one is developed. The LRAD may just be the transition. If there is no large scale public outcry they see what more they can get away with.

      I’m glad Allison brought up torture because that’s exactly what this is. It’s like John Yoo wrote the policy for law enforcement regarding non-lethal weapons. The Geneva Conventions don’t apply to protesters so you can use “deadly force in response to a threat that does not rise to death or serious bodily harm” and it’s not considered torture. That’s exactly the rationale cops are using now. Anything but murder is permissible. Go crazy!

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    I’ve actually experimented with a device similar to that LRAD, but for entirely different reasons. I was trying to study the impact of human-induced noised on wildlife. That said, I can assure you that this device is extraordinarily unpleasant.

    The frequency structure of the signal they’re using is also an important factor. While 130 dB is frequently cited as the threshold of pain, this threshold can be much lower with a high-frequency signal. Conversely, a very low-frequency signal can cause one’s organs to vibrate, which, while not usually painful per se, can be an horrible sensation.

    The good news is that, unlike mace, teargas, and riot clubs, these devices are relatively easy to counteract. Your best tools is probably a decent set of earplugs or external ear protection (e.g. like those worn by the people who signal aircraft). If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can construct a device that will cancel the signal, similar to those noise-canceling headphones but on a larger scale. Given the level of police violence that you’re likely to encounter in this sort of situation, though, the former option is probably your best bet.

    The fact that peaceful protesters need to start including ear protection alongside gas masks and first aid kits says something revealing about the state of democracy in this nation. Fascism? Yes we can!

  3. collapse expand

    We reported on this Friday afternoon, Sep 25th 2009 at 2:40PM.


    Pittsburgh police on Thursday used an audio cannon manufactured by American Technology Corporation (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.

  4. collapse expand

    Be warned President Barack Hussein Obama is a Marxist Dictator Puppet well manipulated into power by his Elitist friends, Zibigniew Bresinsky, Jay and David Rockerfeller et. all
    At the G20 convention in Pittsburgh this past week he and and other Puppets and Elites like Prime Minister Gordon Brown got up and spoke openly about the presence and erection of “The New World Order” and a Central Bank that will dictate to the world!
    The whole world has witnessed this battle and forced announcements into our lives on Internationally Televised television, radio and internet! Now watch there will still be naysayers out there trying to tell us that “The New World Order” and Global Elitists are conspiracy theories for tin foil hat wearers!
    Well sir, I may be wearing a tin foil hat at New Years, however I am smart enough to know when I’ve seen a Spade to call it a Spade!
    Did you see old Henry Kissinger, well known elitist and bag of wind who helped get thousands of American soldiers killed in Viet Nam through his, Johnson’s and Nixon’s policies – he was just shaking in excitement of the announcement of a NWO and Central Banking take over! Damn him to hell!
    Let me tell you this – these rogues are not so worried about how much bonuses these Banksters are getting on bad banking deals as they are interested in taking everything you hold dear from you: Your God or Faith,Freedom, Wife, Husband, Family, Children, Love, Country, House and Home, Business, , Income, Savings Account, Pension, Automobile, boat, entertainment, Life fom you and either culling ( killing you ) so that they have more room to do what they want on this earth or at best turn you into their slave to do whatever they order you to do without you having any say or rights about it! eg, hard labor, domestics,be an experiment for their eugenics science or even sex acts! They will rape your daughters,wife,children and kill your sons! Don’t believe it? Google John Holdren for example Obama’s chief science Czar! I have put this so bluntly so you’ll wake up and resist World Government!

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