They gassed their own people

Back at the end of July, when federal troops were spraying spectacularly excessive amounts of gases at Portland protesters, I noted that a lot of the demonstrators were complaining that it wasn't just conventional tear gas and pepper spray:

No one in the demonstrator ranks knows for sure what is blowing on them, other than CS and OC gas. There's a lot of speculation that's not worth reporting, at least not yet. But one thing that protesters and journalists alike agree on is that after the yellow smoke has passed by, it leaves a strong smell of chlorine in the air. One protester explained, "It smells like you just walked into an indoor community swimming pool." An independent journalist said he detected the chlorine odor nearly two miles from the courthouse after Sunday night's throwdown.

There are also troops walking around during the nightly clear-out with spray tanks on their backs, holding hoses that would unleash who-knows-what. So far, I haven't seen them actually spray anything, but that's not to say they definitely haven't.

So what are these chemicals that the federal government is blowing around in downtown Portland? The occupying force probably won't say, but they won't be able to keep their secrets for too long. Hundreds of people have been wearing gas masks, and the filters have collected the stuff. When the gas-ees identify the substances, I'm sure they'll tell us and we can all be horrified.

Last night I stumbled across this story, which sheds some additional light on what was being inflicted on the protesters:

To analyze the unknown chemicals, CWRC enlisted the help of a local laboratory, Specialty Analytical. The results, first published in a press release on October 10, confirmed suspicions that federal law enforcement was using a new compound on Portland protesters. Canisters collected from protest areas contained trace amounts of hexachloroethane (commonly HC), a white powder that, when heated in the presence of metal salts, reacts to form a dense cloud of green or white smoke that smells like camphor and wreaks havoc on biological systems.

HC is a highly regulated toxin, labeled as a “likely carcinogen” and skin irritant by the Environmental Protection Agency. Eye masks and gloves are recommended for people who handle the chemical. Defense Technologies, an imprint of Pennsylvania-based security equipment manufacturer Safariland, markets the HC canisters as “military-style” smokers, even though the U.S. military actually stopped using HC in grenades in the 1990s due to its extreme toxicity.

Activists are more concerned about the chemicals that leave the canister than those packed inside it. Firing an HC grenade triggers a two-stage reaction in which the chlorine in HC rapidly combines with metallic zinc, resulting in zinc chloride, a toxic metal fume that appears as a greenish-white smoke. “It’s a chemical reaction in a can,” says Simonis. “The zinc chloride is an intentional product of the grenade’s design.” The Material Safety Data Sheet supplied by Safariland, however, doesn’t mention zinc chloride at all.

Gaseous zinc chloride, also known as hexite, is more than an alternative type of tear gas. Because it contains the super-hot gaseous forms of both chloride ions and zinc, a heavy metal, hexite plumes are highly mobile and extremely dangerous to most forms of life. The chloride ions increase the uptake of zinc particles by exposed cells on the skin or mucous membranes. Zinc can accumulate in tissues and organs, then mobilize later and cause a new set of symptoms. The most striking effects of zinc chloride toxicity in the street — vomiting, burning skin, coughing — are only the first onslaught of a chronic, unpredictable respiratory condition that can cause severe liver damage, fatigue, weight loss, and anorexia, in addition to difficulty breathing.

It's a real tragedy that people like Donald Trump and Chad Wolf could have done this to U.S. citizens and lawful U.S. residents simply to avenge political property crimes. I'm as down on the vandals and arsonists as anyone, but this kind of chemical warfare, even on violent protesters, is barbaric.

The whole story just linked-to is worth reading, and it contains links of its own to other informative material. Especially if you were on hand to breathe some of this stuff, or catch it on your skin, you might want to take a look.


  1. This sounds like a crime to me and a hell of a lot more serious than tax evasion. Of course there's probably a provision in some defense authorization bill that legalizes the whole thing.


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