The police repression on display in Oakland reminded me of tactics I witnessed the Israeli army employ against Palestinian popular struggle demonstrations in occupied West Bank villages like Nabi Saleh, Ni’lin and Bilin. So I was not surprised when I learned that the same company that supplies the Israeli army with teargas rounds and other weapons of mass suppression is selling its dangerous wares to the Oakland police. The company is Defense Technology, a Casper, Wyoming-based arms firm that claims to “specialize in less lethal technology” and other “crowd management products.” Defense Tech sells everything from rubber-coated teargas rounds that bounce in order to maximize gas dispersal to 40 millimeter “direct impact” sponge rounds to “specialty impact” 12 gauge rubber bullets.
Defense Tech’s literature concedes that “information is somewhat difficult to obtain” on the damage its weapons can do to the human body. However, company researchers were able to determine that a beanbag round fired from a 12 gauge shotgun exerts the same kinetic impact as a .22 caliber bullet. “The result is blunt trauma with no penetration,” Defense Tech researchers wrote. Wounds suffered yesterday by protesters in Oakland provided vivid confirmation of the conclusion.
Defense Tech products have injured numerous protesters attending the weekly demonstrations in Bilin, an occupied Palestinian village waging an unarmed struggle against Israel’s confiscation of its farmland in order to build its separation wall. Jawaher Abu Rahme, a 36-year-old resident of Bilin, died this year of asphyxiation from Israeli tear gas rounds. Her brother, Bassem, was killed two years earlier when he was struck in the chest by a high velocity teargas shell (see video of his killing here). Activists arriving on the scene after Jawaher Abu Rahme’s death found spent teargas shells marked with the Defense Tech label.
Blumenthal, who’s had some experience getting gassed in the West Bank notes that “Defense Tech is owned by BAE Systems, a global weapons manufacturer with customers in more than 100 countries. BAE is currently trading at 280 pounds a share on the London Stock Exchange.”