What’s up with the tear gas, Feds?

ETA: Read the comments below. Although no one has questioned that I and other protestors are correct that we’re getting low doses of tear gas throughout the evening, commenters much more knowledgeable than I am about this stuff have a much better hypothesis for how this is happening: without rain in Portland, the toxic powder that is called tear gas settles on surfaces, but remains potentially active. When kicked up by activity, it can be breathed in with no more difficulty than it is during initial pyrotechnic dispersal. Because so much tear gas powder has been released into the environment and because summer is a very dry season in Portland, the normal human activities associated with walking around the area, sitting on benches, etc., are kicking up a lot of still active tear gas. This makes the ongoing, low-dose toxicity and associated persistent hellishness almost certainly unintended by the Feds. Of course, I don’t think they regret it at all either. In any case, don’t skip the comments. I am lucky enough to have better quality commenters than most.

Okay, what’s up with the tear gas, Feds?

We know you release whole canisters of the stuff, and sometimes drop 20 canisters at a time (yes, I know it’s hard to tell exactly how many, but 20 seems roughly accurate during larger offensives). We know you do it to punish people rather than to aid in crowd dispersal because, look! You drive people away for less than 5 minutes before they’re back at the fence!

That’s us telling you that all your tear gas can hurt us, but enough of us have gas masks and enough of us have the determination that we will literally party as you’re fucking gassing us. We know you heard that party, so we know you know that you ain’t ending shit.

You can’t think you’re stopping criminal activity either, because last night the only remotely criminal activity was a single trumpet player sitting on top the fence, dropping over for a moment in which he might or might not have gone far enough to cross the city property (sidewalk) and on to the fed property (courthouse portico). And what did you do about that criminal behavior?


When the grenades were set off, it was in response to this:

and this:


It was nothing that could hurt the fence (which is on city property and the city believes is illegal). It was simply making noise – another form of chanting.

So to tell you the truth, I don’t get the whole tear gas assault thing in general.

But that’s not the point of this story. The point of this story is that is that for days now people have been complaining of a little bit of tear gas in the air even when the first canisters/ grenades of the night haven’t happened yet. Last night was especially bad, and a number of people in the SE corner of the park across from the SW corner of the courthouse agreed that they were being affected by tear gas, not cigarette smoke or firework smoke (as acrid as that can be) or something else. We had all been tear gassed multiple times and were at the point where we each individually felt we could be pretty certain: these are tear gas symptoms, not just general “irritant in the air” symptoms.

That seems like it would leave us a mystery: how do these effects happen, and why was last night particularly bad?

But we are not mystified. We have figured you out. We already know that tear gas can cause intolerable symptoms even when spread invisibly thin. We walked around and judged the wind.

You are releasing low levels of tear gas almost constantly for hours from the west side of the Hatfield courthouse. And it’s not hard to guess at your purpose: making the general environment literally irritating until, over time, it becomes literally intolerable, in the hope that people who wanted to freely express their anger at a worsening police state become irritated enough over time that they give up.

And that almost seems like a decent strategy – just release low levels of tear gas continuously so that the protests will end, or at least so any individual protest won’t last as long. Except there’s an equally accurate way of stating this that lays bare that this isn’t just wrong, isn’t just evil, but is uncontrovertibly antithetical to the constitution of the USA:

You are deliberately exposing the population of the USA to continuous, low doses of poison so as to make people sufficiently ill that they give up their 1st Amendment freedoms.

Tear gas may not be lethal save to particularly vulnerable persons, but it’s still a poison. And your goal of causing people to give up their first amendment freedoms, rather than, say, simply stop trespassing or stop the graffiti is obvious to anyone paying attention.

We see what you’re doing. We won’t let you get away with it.






  1. says

    If it’s true CS, it’s a crystal, not a “gas”, really. It’s a strong irritant and it floats around in the air and it causes the usual effects when it hits any mucous tissue. It can stay on surfaces and get kicked back up. A good rain washes it into the ground and that’s the end of that. The grenades are either a can of the stuff with a bursting charge, or a pyrotechnic run through a can of the stuff, which gets pushed out with the smoke.

    When I was in basic, we did a few marches through areas where they used lots of CS, and the feet of the people at the head of the platoon kicked up enough CS out of the sand (Ft Dix, NJ is built on sand) that the people at the tail of the formation were coughing and sneezing.

    CS gas is a chemical weapon and it can kill if used against people in enclosed spaces (like the Branch Davidians in Waco!) The US, Israel, and a few of the other shittier states basically declared that they were going to consider it exempt from the chemical weapons convention because – you got it – it’s so useful for controlling one’s own civilian population. FWIW I believe the US is the main producer and exporter of CS, and, like hair club for men, they’re apparently one of the big customers, too!

  2. sonofrojblake says

    You are releasing low levels of tear gas almost constantly for hours from the west side of the Hatfield courthouse

    This is almost certainly not happening. Echoing mjr – what you (and to be fair basically everyone else) call “gas” is in fact a finely divided solid. What you’re experiencing is not the effect of a continuous low-level release. It’s the effect of one or more single, large releases in previous days that have settled and are being disturbed.

    When you come out of the gas chamber in training, they get you to stand with your legs apart and your arms out so that the wind can blow the “gas” off your NBC suit. If you don’t (and sometimes even if you do), when you pack the suit away the “gas” is still on there, and when you unpack it days, weeks or even months later, you get another faceful.

    I don’t for a second credit the goons in question, or their bosses, with the wit to be doing this deliberately. It’s just a (to them) fortunate side-effect of having released a shitload of this stuff onto civilians for days at a time.

    Please try to step on the rumour that there’s some sort of conspiracy to continuously release the stuff, because people amplifying the rumour will come across as tinfoil hatters rather than reasonable civilians affected by predictable literal fallout from a bad policy decision.
    As an aside – are you finding familiarity with the effects is reducing the panic? Because it seems that way.

  3. Who Cares says

    I don’t think that is the reason why they are tear gassing.
    They came to a solidly democratic city in a state that votes democratic. And then Trump (or the people around him) are talking about expanding this, and from what I’ve read already done so, to more cities in democratic voting states.

    They want you to stop being such a bunch of nice protestors (relatively speaking) and just get on with the rioting already. The script is ready once you do; About the democrats not being able to control this or worse deliberately inflaming the situation.
    Currently they are stuck JAQing off with things like : “Is there a Republican-led city that is having the kind of violent unrest on its streets that we’re seeing in the Democrat-led cities?”

    It is at this moment not going well for the people wanting to exploit what they thought would be riots. And it looks like they have no clue (seems agitators in the crowd have failed) on how to get this further then the protestors locking the goon squads in the building at night.

  4. says

    @1 and 2
    It sounds like you’re saying that the feds have used so much “tear gas” recently that it’s now just ambiently present in the neighborhood. Is that correct?

  5. says

    @Marcus & sonofrojblake:

    Thanks for the info! That makes a ton of sense.

    I’m going to sleep now, but tomorrow I’ll update the main body of the text to reflect your better information.

    @Who cares:

    Also an interesting perspective. You should know that BLM organizers in Portland have been consistently asking for people to stop directing vandalism and fireworks at the courthouse as they feel it’s counterproductive.

    Feds’ overreactions might be useful in proving that feds overreact and that police are prone to unjust violence, but the more our own actions feed into the propaganda narrative that we deserve the violence, the more we’re frustrating BLM’s efforts.

    So you should know that you and BLM organizers are definitely thinking along the same lines. We win so long as our behavior continues to be “good enough” that the cops’ violence is seen as the problem not the solution.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    @LykeX: that’s exactly what we’re saying, yes. It doesn’t take much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *