When tear-gas was first fired into the streets of Ferguson, Missouri at people angry at the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown, Palestinian activists sent out messages on Twitter giving people tips for how to deal with tear gas’ effects.
And there was another direct connection between events in Missouri and the West Bank, as Palestinian activist Mariam Barghouti noted: the company that supplies the Israeli army with tear gas is the same company supplying the police in Ferguson.
— مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) August 14, 2014
As Alexis Goldstein pointed out in YES! Magazine, the company’s name is Combined Tactical Systems (CTS). (The company name is Combined Systems Inc., but they market their products under the brand Combined Tactical Systems.)
Headquartered in Jamestown, Pennsylvania, CTS’ owners boast that they are the “premiere less-lethal line in the industry today.” But the tear-gas canisters they make, which are supplied to Egyptian, Bahraini and Israeli forces and bought with American funding, have killed unarmed protesters in Palestine and Bahrain. And now, the company’s weapons are being fired on protesters livid over the police shooting of Brown, an unarmed black teen hit six times by an officer named Darren Wilson. The tear-gas, smoke bombs and rubber bullets fired on demonstrators, a symbol of the growing militarization of America’s police forces, have fed anger over Brown’s killing across the nation and has sparked an unprecedented debate over police militarization in the country.
Goldstein’s YES Magazine piece pointed to this tweet from a journalist reporting from Ferguson:
— Brian Heffernan (@BrianHeff) August 14, 2014
Other tweets show other CTS products being used:
Confirmed that CS was fired. I found this on site pic.twitter.com/zIccOLWKtD
— Ben Kesling (@bkesling) August 17, 2014
The above picture of a tear-gas canister closely resembles this CTS product (the one in the middle):
Another arms company that supplied Ferguson police with tear gas–and to Israel, Bahrain and Egypt–is Defense Technology.
The CTS and Defense Technology products–along with armored vehicles and high-powered rifles–being used on the streets of an American city shocked many people watching events unfold. But since the 1980s, American police departments have slowly begun equipping themselves with armaments more suited to war zones and mass uprisings than run-of-the-mill policing. The “wars” on drugs and terror have fueled this phenomenon.
Militarized policing’s impact has been most felt on poor black communities like Ferguson. And while the tear gas and rubber bullets being fired in Ferguson may be new–and bring to mind images of Palestine and Iraq–blacks in the U.S. have long suffered the brunt of police violence.