Laurel L. Russwurm's Free Culture Blog

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

When is Pepper Spray Appropriate? #OccupyCanada

with 4 comments

Black and white photo Text says OCCUPONS MONTREAL

The Occupy Montreal Protest continues, with a recent donation of arctic rated tents. Tolerance seems to be the city of Montreal’s policy.

black and white photo of protesters

Today conservative Superior Court Justice David Brown, himself a former Bay Street Lawyer, is expected to decide the fate of St. James Park’s Occupy Toronto encampment.

I understood that judges were at least expected to present the appearance of impartiality, and that a judge that was too close to a case was expected to recuse himself when such conflict arose. since the Occupy movement is a condemnation of the financial policies of Wall Street/Bay Street, it would seem a given that a jurist with a corporate Bay Street background like Justice Brown’s would recuse himself at the outset. Yet he did not.

“Every protest group all of a sudden has its own park. At the end of the day, where do I ride my bike?”

Justice David Brown

Still, the Justice elected not to evict the protesters on Friday, exhibiting an awareness of the situation on the ground. I wonder if the horrible events of US Davis in California, and the resultant surge in public opinion as a direct result, might affect his decision today. Laws and justice are supposed to reflect society’s mores after all.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

hot to handle

The first time I beheld a green pepper was in a home economics in the ninth grade. I thought they were cute; but smelled bad and tasted awful. I have never understood why people like to eat hot peppers, but clearly they do.

One year I grew hot peppers which won first prize in a local fair. I dried some, and canned some as gifts. But the thing I wasn’t prepared for was that just handling them puts the oil on your hands. I learned the importance of thoroughly washing your hands after I made the mistake of picking jalapeño peppers and then rubbing my eyes. It only happened once, and it hurt. I remember the pain very well. Never again.

But it didn’t kill me.

So like most people, I had no idea that pepper spray could be lethal.

It is especially hard on people with asthma because it is an inflammatory agent, and Wikipedia tells us that it can cause “…uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes.”

When I was a child, I didn’t know a soul with asthma. As an adult, they are everywhere. So it seems to me that pepper spraying people is playing with fire.

In other parts of the world, citizens are allowed to carry cannisters of pepper spray on their person for self defence.

Not in Canada; here pepper spray is a prohibited weapon. Unless you’re in law enforcement, then you are allowed to spray it for “crowd control” Pepper spray was lobbed at Toronto’s G20 protesters last year.

This weekend’s inappropriate police pepper spraying of peaceful protesters at California’s UC Davis campus has triggered outrage around the world this weekend.

Pepper spray is increasingly used, not as self defence, but as a means of physically punishing peaceful protesters.

Deborah Blum’s Speakeasy Science article looks at the history, use and effects of pepper spray. It is not a pretty picture.

Pepper spray is banned for use in war by Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention which bans the use of all riot control agents in warfare whether lethal or less-than-lethal.[18] In the US, when pepper spray is used in the workplace, OSHA requires a pepper sprayMSDS be available to all employees.[citation needed]
Wikipedia: Pepper Spray: Legality

If pepper spray is too terrible to use in war, why are authorities using it on peaceful protesters?

Pepper spray is never appropriate.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

November 21, 2011 at 5:20 am

4 Responses

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  1. Check this out:

    “… In addition, regional and state-wide police practice and protocol clearly suggest that using pepper spray against nonviolent protestors is excessive. ”
    HEADWATERS FOREST DEFENSE v. COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT

    This seems to indicate that the officers pepperspraying non violent protesters are not immune from prosecution, in California, at least.

    lothlaurien

    November 21, 2011 at 9:53 pm

  2. […] When is Pepper Spray Appropriate? #OccupyCanada (laurelrusswurm.wordpress.com) Share this:EmailFacebookPrintStumbleUpon […]

  3. I saw a police rep on T.V. saying that pepper spray is standard means of removing people who are causing obstruction(rather than grabbing their arm because the arm could be broken). In the video, however, one can clearly see police attacking the victim on the ground(after they had been pepper sprayed).

    The same reasoning is why cops no longer do foot chases when a person(whether he’s a suspect or not), tries to run away from a cop. It’s easier to shoot the person in the back.

    L.M.

    November 21, 2011 at 6:39 am


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