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Chicago Police Ready for NATO Summit Protesters With 'Sound Cannon'

Common Dreams staff

Chicago police have been increasing their supply of riot-control equipment, including the controversial long-range acoustic device (LRAD), also known as a "sound cannon," in the lead-up to the NATO summit protests the weekend of May 19, the Guardian reports today.

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Confirming that they would have a sound cannon at the protest, Chicago police told the Guardian it would serve "as a means to ensure a consistent message is delivered to large crowds that can be heard over ambient noise."  But the LRAD can also emit a "deterrent tone," which some have said is capable of causing permanent hearing damage.

The Guardian reports that the CPD has spent $1m on the riot gear for both officers and horses.

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Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) G20 Pittsburgh from Youtube user glassbeadian

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Adam Gabbatt reporting for the Guardian:

Chicago police bulk up with $1m in riot gear for 'peaceful' NATO summit protests

Police to employ use of controversial equipment ahead of planned action by a coalition of anti-war and Occupy groups

Police in Chicago have spent $1m on riot-control equipment in the last few months ahead of next month's NATO summit, which is expected to attract thousands of anti-war protesters.

Protesters from a coalition of organizations including unions, anti-war and Occupy groups are expected to descend on the city. National Nurses United, the largest nurses' union in the US, is providing free buses to Chicago for activists from across the country even as its own plans to demonstrate were vetoed by the city of Chicago on Tuesday.

While protesters insist demonstrations during the NATO conference – the main action is planned for Sunday 20 May – will be peaceful, police appear to be leaving nothing to chance. Records show that since it was announced the NATO conference would be held in Chicago, police have purchased improved riot gear for both officers and horses. Officers are also preparing to use the controversial long-range acoustic device, or LRAD, during the operation. [...]

Chicago police confirmed to the Guardian that they will have a LRAD available at the 20 May protest, "as a means to ensure a consistent message is delivered to large crowds that can be heard over ambient noise".

"This is simply a risk management tool, as the public will receive clear information regarding public safety messages and any orders provided by police," said Chicago police spokeswoman Melissa Stratton. [...] LRADs have been purchased by the US army and navy, and have also been used in commercial shipping as an attempt to drive away pirates. The device was first used at a protest in the US at the G20 Pittsburgh summit in September 2009, however there are ongoing complaints that its use there caused some people to suffer permanent damage.

Karen Piper, a university lecturer, claims she suffered irreversible hearing damage that day, and is currently bringing a legal case against the city of Pittsburgh. "This is a device that has the capability to inflict permanent hearing loss on people," Piper's lawyer, Vic Walczak, told the Guardian, adding that the device is "more dangerous than a Taser".

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ABC 7 Chicago reported in April on the CPD's plan to use the LRAD:


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