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:
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.