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We shall overcome … respiratory arrest

Mar. 22, 2000

It can be dangerous to be an activist, and not just for the reasons you think. As if facing arrest and police dogs wasn’t enough, IN THESE TIMES reports that the tear gas and pepper spray sometimes used for crowd control can cause more than lung-rending coughs and burning eyes.

The use of both chemicals on peaceful WTO protesters in Seattle turned attention to the possible damage they can cause. Military and other studies have suggested serious health dangers from exposure, both short-term (respiratory arrest, elevated blood pressure) and long-term (cancer and birth defects), but there’s no government agency that checks to make sure that these agents are safe, leaving police to rely on manufacturers’ claims.

Nobody’s questioning that when a belligerent suspect needs to be subdued, a blast of pepper spray is less hazardous to his health than, say, a bullet. But peaceful crowds engaging in a little friendly civil disobedience, the story argues, deserve better treatment.

Read the IN THESE TIMES story here.



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