Passive Resisters

Taser stun guns used on non-violent protesters.

BY Silja J.A. Talvi

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Things turned ugly at an Oct. 9 protest in Pittsburgh, when demonstrators converged to protest Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s attendance at a fundraiser for Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) Protesters cornered Bush, chanting, “We don’t want you here.” Though the protesters were entirely nonviolent, police responded by using Tasers on two of them.

While Taser’s materials have always focused on the need for “less-than-lethal” weapons to take down even the most violent, intoxicated and determined of assailants, the company also advocates use of their weapons on far less dangerous populations.

“Crowd Control: Passive Resisters,” a section of a CD-ROM Taser distributed to law enforcement agencies, intersperses footage of protesters at various demonstrations with instruction on how Taser stun gun probes can be used “to separate linked protesters.”

The CD explains that probes delivering the 50,000 volts can be taped to the backs of “subjects,” ostensibly to prevent removal by the protesters. The stun guns can also be used directly against pressure points on the skin (in “drive mode”) to “gain access to hands when subjects are not linked to others.”

The materials also include suggestions on how to shape department policy if your local police department is currently prohibited from using Tasers on passive resisters. The “factors for affecting policy changes” include working on the “perception” of the stun guns; “defensibility” of the use of the weapons; and seeking “supervisory approval.”

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Silja J.A. Talvi, a senior editor at In These Times, is an investigative journalist and essayist with credits in many dozens of newspapers and magazines nationwide, including The Nation, Salon, Santa Fe Reporter, Utne, and the Christian Science Monitor.

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