CS gas and the use of force - Antagonism

Leaflet produced after some protesters were gassed at a demonstration against the 1995 Criminal Justice Bill.

This leaflet was produced after we were gassed on a demonstration. Although we suspected the police, we later found out that it was an activist who used CS gas on the demo. CS gas spray has since become part of the standard equipment of London's Metropolitan Police. A number of deaths have been caused as a result.

CS Gas and the Use of Force
In October 1994, the British TV news bulletins ran items on a new repressive weapon that the police were testing. The new weapon was called Pepper Spray (or Capsicum Spray). The news items showed a volunteer being sprayed, debilitated and then describing his pain and discomfort.

On October 8th 1994, there was a march and demonstration against the then Criminal Justice Bill (now enacted), which finished at Hyde Park. To start with the demo was peaceful, good humoured, boring. There was a bit of heckling of some of the speakers (eg the leader of the probation officers union) and a few minor scuffles resulting from this, but nothing notable. Towards late afternoon, a sound-system, with dancers in tow, attempted to enter the park, but was resisted by the police. People pushed through the police lines and danced on top of police vans. The police reacted angrily and the situation escalated, after a few minutes there was an attempt by several people to turn over one of the vans. There were no police exactly at that point, just the crowd of dancers/demonstrators.

Chemical Attack
The van was starting to move when there was a chemical attack against the crowd. The writers of this leaflet were there and were affected by it. Everyone immediately ran away from the van and towards the park. We are not sure, but we believe that the agent used was the then-under-testing pepper spray, used by the police. Some of the media said it was CS gas, used by the police. The police said it was CS gas used by the demonstrators. We don't know; but the gas certainly served the immediate interests of the filth. (On the other hand, it also pissed people off and may have helped the confrontational mood which resulted in the best riot in the UK since Trafalgar Square 1990.)

New Toys
There has been some media interest over the experimental pepper spray. After it was introduced into California, it resulted in 14 deaths in its first year of use. The upshot of this mild disquiet is that the police are not going to use pepper spray. The Met are introducing CS gas instead. Police will carry canisters as part of their normal kit, and will use them "mainly for self-defence". Are we supposed to be pleased about this "concession"?

The Useful Bit
CS gas may or may not be less dangerous than pepper spray. This is what we know about it that might be useful.

* CS gas can be fatal to asthmatics. If you suffer from asthma, make sure you carry your inhalers with you on demo's. Even if you don't end up needing them yourself, you might be able to help someone else who has an attack.
* The standard advice to anyone who is gassed is (unfortunately) run away. You need to get to fresh air as soon as possible. Once in the clear, if need be, stand facing the wind with eyes open to clear them of gas. Then return to the conflict, maybe at a different point.
* Wash your face in plenty of cold water if you are in discomfort.
* Once home, take a cold bath. Warm or hot water opens the skin pores, allowing remaining CS gas residue to enter and will make irritation worse; cold water closes the pores.
* Consider taking counter measures. There are some cycle masks that have activated charcoal filters. These should help minimise damage to the airways. Or you could go the whole hog and take a gas mask. But these are heavy, sweaty and conspicuous. Discuss this option with your mates, see whether they think its a worthwhile thing to do.

Force
Our enemies keep their military and police armed to the teeth. We can't hope to beat them on their own terrain. That is we can't hope to ultimately defeat them in open battle. Our only possible strategy is subversion so generalised, but coherent, that it is everywhere. We can use this strategy to inform our low level tactics as well. If the filth use chemical agents against us, certainly we should just fight right back if possible. But we will probably be forced to retreat. If the police temporarily beat us at the exact point of conflict we should move the point of conflict to places more friendly to us. One weird thing that happens in riots is that the conflict tends to settle down to a battle between the rioters and the pigs in riot gear. Pigs in ordinary uniform often are able to wander about with impunity. If we are unable to attack the most tooled up pigs, then we will turn our attention to those that don't happen to be on riot duty that day. Other possible targets are the old favourites of commercial property, posh cars and of course journos. Journalists are coming under attack more and more often; several were attacked at the Hyde Park riot. This sort of thing will increase.

Final word is despite the use of gas against us, despite the armoured vans, the mounted police, we won the Hyde Park battle, we held our ground, we several times chased the riders out of the Park, we strengthened our community of resistance.

April 1995

BM Makhno,
London WC1N 3XX

Taken from the Antagonism website.