Facing Tear Gas is a storytelling project of the War Resisters League by and for people that have experienced tear gas all over the world. SHARE YOUR STORY WITH US. Help us build our campaign against the use of tear gas and related chemical weapons and the militarization of police in our communities, and visit the full campaign website here. For updates on the campaign: Sign-up for tear gas campaign updates and action alerts, Like us on Facebook, and Follow us on Twitter.
In the course of my job I spend a fair bit of time in a Philadelphia public high school, which takes its name from a frequently commodified and de-radicalized civil rights leader. The halls of this high school are patrolled by numerous guards in uniform and plain clothes, and the frequent Public Service announcements alternate between authoritarian threats and pleading bribes for “good behavior”. In the short time I have spent there, I’ve seen three students taken away in hand cuffs, often after a physical struggle with multiple adults. The relevant incident occurred less than a month ago while I was waiting with a cart for the elevator. There were loud noises and students came pouring out of a nearby door followed by a caustic smell. There was shouting while the students stood in the hall, then a uniformed officer followed them through the door and the students bolted down the hall away from her. There were sufficient numbers who were panicked that they knocked over my cart of books and fell on each other in an effort to get away. The officer was holding a student with one hand whose eyes were streaming. In the other hand she held a chemical spray container that she pointed at the students. I have been exposed to both tear gas and pepper spray in the past and could not tell you which this was, but even through peripheral contact I could feel my eyes begin to water and my throat burn. I have no idea what the student’s alleged infraction was, nor do I care. Schools are where we young people go to learn. We should be ashamed that students caught in the school-to-prison pipeline are learning what it means to face chemical weapons. We should be many times more ashamed if we let that pipeline take them to a prison cell where they will face the same weapons in routine cell extractions.- Owen
Tahrir square, Jan 25th, 2013. Me and my parents were protesting against the new ‘religious’ regime ruled by Morsi. All of a sudden, we heard screams from several areas around us and people running away from an unknown attack. We couldnt tell what it was till we felt sharp burns through our respiratory system, we coughed so hard and we didnt know that we had to run so fast. It was strange, the gas was colorless, and no warning sound was heard before the bomb was released. Young men and women found it easier to run to fresh air and catch breath. But me while tied to 2 old parents we were unable to run fast, in a few seconds we almost lost our sight and consciousnesses, burning in our eyes, faces and throat. I fell on the ground spitting liquids and trying stick to my parents. But looking behind me I couldn’t find them anymore. A life saver made me breath some vinegar vapor, somehow it worked and came back to life after i almost thought it’s my end. And thankfully later, I discovered my parents were saved in the same manner. This gas has a killing effect for us. Please help us STOP getting gas into our cities.- Mohammed
In the Northwest of France, about 20km NW of the city of Nantes, there is a community in struggle near the town of Notre-Dame-des-Landes against a new airport and motorway. The locals there have been resisting the project in an area already home to numerous airports for about forty years. It’s somewhat of a pet project of a guy called Jean-Marc Ayrault, once mayor of Nantes, who is of late the prime minister of France.
Since 2009, there have been people moving in from all over to occupy empty houses and terrains owned by the local authorities and then by Vinci, the contractor for the airport. At times there were around 30 separate terrains, forests, fields, or houses squatted and occupied against the project, while also creating spaces for collective living, with gardening, and self-built houses, bike workshops, etc…
The place has been occupied by the French military since mid-October, when they began “Opération César” in an attempt to clear the area (about 10km squared) of opponents to the project, who have responded with a fierce resistance, despite the systematic destruction of homes and equally fierce police brutality.
The week of 23 November last, a group of people occupied a woodland on the site that had already been evicted three times, building treehouses and structures on the ground, as well as putting up nets and other structures in the trees where we could live and resist any more eviction attempts. On the weekend of 23, the police returned in strength, along with workers and machines, to attempt to evict the forest again.
I spent two days and nights in a tree, while battle raged in other parts
of the forest and in areas outside of it, between protestors and police,
listening to the explosions of concussion grenades, rubber bullets and, of course, tear gas. High up in an oak, we were unable to flee the noxious clouds like our comrades on the ground (many of whom were prepared, with gas masks or, at least, scarves and lemon juice). We who were up high, sat and watched oncoming clouds of teargas and braced ourselves, and with scarves and lemon juice suffered through it until it passed on, only to be hit by more immediately. There was a feeling of powerlessness, being in this position, for there was really nothing else to be done, but to suffer through it. My lungs burned, my eyes flooded with tears, and I had difficulty breathing, but nowhere to go. This, throughout two days and nights.
On the ground, people fought with the police, with various projectiles and fireworks, all really nothing compared to these heavily-armoured servants of corporate interest, armed to the teeth with these humanitarian weapons of crowd control.
I had trouble thinking about how it went for the birds of the forest,
between the tear gas and the concussion grenades. - Camille
I was gassed with CS gas in Tahrir Square on November 23, 2011. Blindness, skin on fire, utter panic. Down with SCAF, Down with the Police State, Justice for the Martyrs of the Revolution. - Samah
Port-au-Prince, Haiti: 1989 Three years after US-backed dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier fled after a popular uprising, there was a succession of coups as different segments of the ruling class were vying for power. At this point Avril was in power and there was a popular demonstration for democracy. The cops and military responded with gas, then live fire. I was blinded by the gas. Locals dragged me out of harm’s way into a house and washed my eyes with water and lime. Now after Obama/Clinton manipulations, a Duvalierist is back in power. - T. Savino (Photo: © Daniel Lainé/CORBIS)
TEAR GAS STORY
Where: Occupy Oakland
Why: Defending encampment, providing free food, shelter, services, community and political awakening
Outcome: ——> Growing determination to end current socio-economic system
END US IMPERIALISM TOPPLE CAPITALISM - Lara
This is a story from Cora, who was tear gassed as a part of a U.S. student delegation to Chile during the summer of 2012. The protest was for the re-nationalization of copper in support of education. Student protests have swept Chile over the past year, known at first as the “Chilean Winter.” The protests are against the privatized education system in place in Chile and will continue, as students demand a free public education for everyone.
I was in Denver in October 2011 when riot police were destroying the Occupy camp. A crowd of us were trying to rescue food, beds, and medical supplies; suddenly an officer fired rubber bullets at a kid videotaping from a tree, then they tear gassed us, peaceful men, women, and children. I saw a lady on the ground screaming and holding her eyes, everyone was stampeding and shrieking and it was impossible to breathe. They destroyed the food and supplies. - Dave
[Photo by Sion Touhig] I first heard about the Seattle Protests at a Ruckus Society training camp about 6 months before the WTO was scheduled to come to town. Ruckus is a group famous for the dramatic and daring banners they hang from cranes and buildings and towers; they focus on human rights and environmental issues. The speaker there representing the anti-WTO organizers, after making an eloquent case for the connections between all the globalization issues and for a coalition of activists of all stripes, said “We will lie down on the airstrips and stop the delegates planes from landing. If they get past that, we will block the highways leading from the airport to the city. If they get past that, we will block the hotels they are staying in, we will block the streets, and we will block the doors of the convention center and we will not let them make another another free trade deal that week in Seattle.” How could I not help with such a plan? In that moment I committed to go.
I first met my friend Trucker in 1970 at a rally against the Vietnam War. Our demo was going to start on the Berkeley campus and continue with a march down Telegraph Avenue. This was shortly after the National Guard and police had murdered six demonstrators at Kent State and Jackson State, so the mood was extremely tense. The Berkeley city government had denied us a permit to march and called in police reinforcements from Oakland. The Oakland cops had a reputation for brutality (based on their treatment of the black population), and we were expecting an ugly and possibly violent confrontation. Out of fear, many people decided not to march, but others of us argued that marching was now more important than ever. We needed to defy the government’s attempts to scare us into silence.
After speeches and music in front of Sproul Hall, we marched off the campus and were met by a wall of police sealing off Telegraph Avenue. Some of our hard-cores in front tried to break through the barrier but were clubbed down. Cops began firing what looked liked shotguns, and people started screaming and running in panic, but it turned out to be tear gas.
A demonstrator wearing a biker helmet, swim goggles, and a cloth around his face picked up a gas canister with gloved hands and hurled it back at the police — a classic scene of a brave individual defying tyranny. Inspired, I pulled off my old green beret that I’d been wearing and used it to protect my hands as I scooped up a hot canister and threw it back where it came from. I thought about all the grenades I’d thrown in Vietnam and felt much better about this one.
I have SCD. After an evening with friends & while walking to my car, I inhaled tear gas. It was different from any other tear gas I was exposed to before. I fell to my knees, movement was difficult so was thinking. Had my friends not been around, I wouldn’t have made it. I suffered headache, stomach ache, weak voice, and general bone-ache for the following days. - S. Hussain, 29 Years - Bahrain
I’m an anchor who works on Egyptian TV. I’m also from the city of Suez, the city of the first martyrs of the Egyptian revolution which has seen violent clashes between rebels and the police. Police have used expired tear gas to suppress and disperse the protests causing much harm among the demonstrators like burning eyes and facial injuries.
Injuries did not stop at the face though. We’ve also seen neurological injuries, with demonstrators spending days in treatment centers and some even killed by exposure to these types of serious toxins.
After last year’s late November severe tear gas repression on Mohammed Mahmoud St. in Cairo, my wife, officer of customs at Adabiya port, received a shipment coming from a U.S. port carrying three containers carrying tons of US-made tear gas for the Ministry of Interior. But she refused to deal with this deadly cargo, especially after she heard that I and four of her colleagues were standing in solidarity with her, declining to process the shipment.
Resistance still continues to prevent U.S. tear gas from killing Egyptians at the hands of their security forces. - Medhat
I will bet real money that no one will submit his or her tear gas experience from the army! Every recruit has one, just part of training. One day, with no warning at all, you are marched to a one-story building somewhere on your Basic Training base. You have your gas mask with you, but, then, you usually do, as part of the gear you are being taught to wear. You are given a very brief introduction to the training. You are sent inside this building, lined up around the walls, and told to put on your gas mask. Oh Yes! I almost forgot! “Your gas mask is one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment you will ever have in the army!”
A sergeant starts a tear gas grenade spewing smoke in the enclosed, ever-shrinking space. The mask seems to work just fine, except for the distinct smell of the tear gas seeping in from the edges of the highly-advanced piece of army equipment you are being trained to use. Then, you are ordered to remove your gas mask – and that is where it becomes truly interesting. Of course you are overwhelmed by the smoke, the choking tear gas. You have to stand there, or fall down there, or go into a panic right there. Eventually, they let you out of the building, and you cough and choke and sometimes vomit – all from the effects of the tear gas. The effects of the tear gas take a long time to go away. The memory remains forever.
Like the night I had radio watch in our Company Headquarters about two weeks after the beginning of the Tet Offensive in early 1968.