The Truth About Tear Gas

John Hill
12. June 2020
Police firing tear gas canisters into protesters trapped on a highway embankment in Philadelphia on June 1, 2020 (Photo: Screenshot)

Amnesty International and SITU Studio, an architectural practice based in Brooklyn, have released Choking Dissent: How Tear Gas is Used to Crush Protests, a video analysis that explores the mechanics of tear gas and how the "less lethal" munition interacts with spaces of protest.

The video arrives a couple weeks after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25. Protesters took to the streets almost immediately and were greeted with tear gas and rubber bullets, two supposedly safe deterrents used during violent protests. While violence occurred in the early days of protests, which started in Minneapolis but quickly spread to the rest of the country, tear gas was reportedly used against peaceful protesters as well, most notably in Washington, DC, when Donald Trump crossed a street next to the White House for a photo op. 

Although the timing of the video by Amnesty International SITU is aligned with these events, the larger investigation that it is a part of is international in scope and spans five years. The video documents tear gas used by the police in Caracas in May 2017, in Hong Kong in August 2019, as well as in Philadelphia earlier this month. Melding found footage and 3D modeling, the video capably argues for tear gas to be considered "torture or other ill-treatment under international law."

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