Put On Your Tin Foil Hat!
At the recent G-20 protest demonstrations, police used Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) to disperse unruly protesters. The devices were also deployed at recent town hall health care protests.
LRADs emit a high pitched sound, "higher than the normal human threshold for pain", according to experts. They have a range upwards of 145 to 151 decibels and can incapacitate someone to within 1000 feet. The American Tinitus Association said that the G-20 protesters were "acoustically assaulted" with 140 decibels of sound which is equivalent to the sound pressure from an IED.
LRADs have been used by the military since 2003 and they became available to local law enforcement agencies since 2004. One of the LRADs primary uses is to repel those, such as unruly protesters, that would otherwise be repelled by use of lethal or non-lethal weapons.
American Technology, the manufacturer of LRADs sold $12.8 million worth of the devices in the first nine months of 2009 according to its SEC filings.
Raymond DeMichiei, Pittsburgh's deputy director of emergency management and homeland security, said "Every police officer I talked to thought it worked famously" and that "The bottom line is we could maintain order with the protesters without hurting them. It is designed to get people to do what police want. It makes them uncomfortable but does not hurt them."
In addition to the military and police, LRADs have been used by cruise ships and freighters to repel pirates. The U.S. Border patrol is also using the device.
With the help of Homeland Security grants, police departments nationwide looking to subdue unruly crowds and political protesters are purchasing a high-tech device originally used by the military to repel battlefield insurgents and Somali pirates with piercing noise capable of damaging hearing.
Police acknowledge that they deployed the so-called Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRADs) as a safeguard at recent political conventions, protest-plagued international summit meetings and this summer's volatile town hall meetings on health care.
San Diego-based American Technology Corp. insists the devices it manufactures and sells are not intended to be used as sonic weapons but rather to "influence the behavior and gain compliance" from people.
The dish-shaped device generate tones that are higher than the normal human threshold for pain, according to the device's own data sheet. They can be aimed in a narrow beam at specific targets with what the company has described as "extreme accuracy."
The purchase of LRADs by police agencies in the U.S. is approved by the Homeland Security Department, making the departments eligible for millions of dollars in federal grants.
The first acknowledged public use of the LRADs in the United States occurred at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh, during which police activated one of the devices to disperse what they said were protesters seeking to march without a permit on the city's convention center.
The dish-shaped device was mounted atop a military-style police vehicle and the piercing sound it emitted caused the protesters to stop, cover their ears and back up, at which time they faced nonlethal tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
American Technology spokesman Robert Putnam said the company's LRAD system was "successfully deployed" by Pittsburgh law enforcement agencies to "support their peacekeeping efforts at the G-20 summit," but he denied that the devices are weapons.
In addition to Pittsburgh, the devices previously were set up - but not used - by police in New York City during the 2004 Republican National Convention, put in place last month during at least two health care town-hall meetings in the San Diego area and were at the ready for police in Miami in 2003 for a free-trade conference in that city.
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