G20 protesters blasted by sonic cannon

This could have been a deleted scene from Children of Men.

US security forces turned the piercing sound on their own citizens yesterday to widespread outrage. Pittsburgh officials told the New York Times that it was the first time "sound cannon" had been used publicly.
G20 protesters blasted by sonic cannon


  1. oh great

    does anyone have something that i can read to explain why ideas like ‘the right to peaceful protest’ and ‘free assembly’ can magically not apply when police have loud speakers?

  2. That is just savage, even if it’s a “non-physical” weapon. Another step down the ladder of freedom…

    I see that in a few years there will be large groups of militant, deaf, ex-protesters.

  3. holy crap that is the creepiest thing. how did people decide this is an okay thing to do? what happened to freedom of assembly?

  4. @FreeYourCRT: I think the term you’re going for is “martial law”.

    Although with those large black boxlike objects blasting noise, “Marshall” law is apropos as well.

  5. Well i dont know how many dB´s That thing “fires” but i guess loosing parts of your hearing could count as a physical damage…


  6. Holy crap, welcome to Amerikkka, people. You get what you vote for. Shame on the citizens of Philly if they put up with this behavior from their “civil servants.”

  7. Gaaaaaaahhh

    What were the demonstrators even doing? Standing about? Chanting a bit? Definitely a reason to pull out the freaking death squads.

  8. You don’t buy something and not use it. This probably was the first opportunity they had to blow the new sonic cannon smell off the thing. I mean, G20 protesters? They’re like buddies with Al-Queda, right?

  9. the gestapo officers saw a chance to use their new techno/torture toy and grabbed it.

    I bet a few of them got off on causing pain to peaceful protesters. They will feel all manly and shit for days to come.

  10. All the Robocops need is “Submit Now!” blazoned across their riot shields and the dystopia is complete.

    “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

    So much for Peel’s Principles of Policing when the New Aristocracy are in town.

  11. Add a splash of Red and and think back to 1929 Germany …

    not to be pedantic (which of course means I’m about to be pedantic) in 1929 Germany they were “brown shirts”, the lovely black and red motif came later….

  12. Remember gang…all those cool, über-futuristic crowd-control “tools” and weapons you see on “future tech” tv shows? Those are intended to be used on you.

  13. Ok, so next protest I go to, I’m adding pro-grade earplugs to my “just in case” kit.

    JIC kit also includes:
    hospital-grade face mask
    painting goggles
    baby shampoo (for pepper spray)

  14. @ 11

    You think a FEW of them got off on it? I bet it was all they could do to stop themselves from running over and tasering the fuck out of them afterward.

    Seriously, what’s the difference between this and using water cannons? Would they USE water cannons? No, because that’s messy and you can SEE the pain. This way, it looks a lot better on the news PLUS the police department gets to justify money spent on a sonic cannon. I’m sure the tax base who paid for that one feels very satisfied now that another “ca-raaaazy G20 protest” went on without an unlawful assembly.

    I’m a fan of the police. I am. They keep people from breaking in to my house, they keep people from smashing me on the freeway, and they found someone who stole something from me one time. All stand-up, honorable things. But I dislike the police when they do things like this. It doesn’t take a psychologist to know what’s going on here and the motivation behind this type of force. All I’m sayin’.

  15. I wonder how long it will be before people start fighting back with violence? What is the limit of what people will accept from their government?

  16. Please do NOT refer to this as a “non physical” weapon. To me permanent hearing damage is 100% Physical.

    This shit “Fires” 145dBSPL (Wikipedia)

    That’s 25dB MORE than “possible permanent hearing damage’

    5dB more than ‘Threshold of pain’

    5dB less than a Jet flying by 10 meters away from your ear.

    On the other hand, i always have earplugs with me so i could stay and throw a ‘molli’ at that fucker!

  17. Break the noise ordinance a little, enlist the help from some car stereo fanatics and have a db dragrace. Lets see what civillian engineering can do when put up against all those military cubic dollars and megabucks. Bet we can do it faster, cheaper and better.

  18. I’m guessing it probably first came without the flashing LEDs and mechanical robot voice, but they had a meeting and decided it would make it creepier and more like a dytopian future movie scene, so they went back to the drawing board.

  19. You know, with a little ingenuity a person could probably build an active sound cancellation system that would render these things useless. Not that I would ever advocate such a thing, just saying…

  20. For those of you who feel that this device was an inappropriate way to break up the crowd*, what method would you have preferred? No one seems to like it** when the police actually comes into contact with crowds like this (see London).

    I’m also confused by why people have a problem with the police being in riot gear (be it black or pink or whatever colour) in this kind of scenario — sure, maybe 90% of all protests are peaceful, but do you honestly think that the police will have time to go home and change if people start tossing “mollies”?

    That being said — I wish someone could give me a coherent set of grievances that the G20 protesters were actually protesting about.

    *whether or not the crowd should have been broken up is a different discussion. If the gathering was illegal (and you feel it should have been allowed), then the problem is with the law, not the people entrusted with enforcing it.

    **I’m willing to bet that this holds true for protesters and police officers alike.

  21. I doesn’t appear to be working. And the voice of the Law said ‘immediate vicinity’. LOL. Unnecessary wordiness bonus!

  22. I’m no lawyer but I thought you could only designate something as an “unlawful assembly” if you have reason to believe that people have gathered together with the intent of doing something illegal. So what is the supposed planned crime in this case?

  23. @ROB Beschizza Yes! Black and gold are perfect (actually the first time I saw green avatars I tough it was a MARVEL Comics promotional stunt for HULK).

  24. If they were looking for some people to test a new pain weapon on, they couldn’t have chosen a better group than G20 protestors.

    These people make the crowd at an Arkansas Monster Truck rally look like participants at the TED conference.

    I’m convinced that 98% of these people have not the slightest idea what they are “protesting”.

  25. @ bdgbill:

    I’m convinced that 98% of these people have not the slightest idea what they are “protesting”.

    Maybe so, but I’d wager that roughly the same percentage of officers present have not the slightest idea of why those protesters must be stopped.

  26. Wow, this sure is all over the news. ;p

    Behind every mask is a human face and I can’t help but wonder what the expressions on those faces are.

    Are any of them thinking this might be a little extreme? Surely some have to stifle at least a little doubt.
    Or are they all thinking of that time they had to negotiate for five hours with that crazy father of four who was threatening to blow up his family with a cylinder of compressed gas (a story told to me by a police officer I sort of know) or about the training they go through that drills shooting an assailant in the head first time (told to me by a family friend who was a CID officer in London at the time); both stories in response to my eager questions about moderate action.

    So you wanna be a cop huh? How do you feel about clubbing hippies? Hmm? Oh. They’re ALL hippies son.

    I want to humanise them but I’m spending a lot of that good humanising energy just keeping myself from getting angry.


    ‘then the problem is with the law, not the people entrusted with enforcing it.’

    The problem is when you PROSTEST against a LAW the ‘people entrusted with enforcing the law’ alway seem to show up, or am i the only one having such ‘bad luck’

    and i still DO have a problem with the 145dBSPL and permanent hearing damage.

  28. #42 posted by Brainspore

    so basically there are about 2% cops who know whats going down and 2% of offenders who know what they did wrong.

    sounds pretty fair and square to me


    “For those of you who feel that this device was an inappropriate way to break up the crowd*, what method would you have preferred?”

    I don’t know that there’s any method I’m particularly fond of, but permanent hearing damage is no joke. I’d much rather take a rubber bullet or pepper spray, which will heal, to having a permanent loss of hearing.

  30. @sebastians(#44):

    The hearing damage is unfortunate. I’m willing to bet that there is research ongoing as we type to find some way to be equally obnoxious, but without causing permanent damage. This device is intended as an alternative to physical force (by which I mean one-on-one combat), water cannons, tear-gas, etc. For now though, I’d really like to hear what better alternatives are.

    The reason why the enforcers always seem to show up is that large crowds of angry people tend to also attract the kinds of people who will use the protest, however legitimate as cover to break other laws. When people who intend to peacefully protest work with the law to get the appropriate permits, etc, the police can then expend their energies keeping the anarchist assholes (probably 0.01% of people involved in something like this) in check. This is why the permitting process exists, not to stifle free speech (I will give you however that this is a very fine line to walk).

  31. @#26
    “I wonder how long it will be before people start fighting back with violence? What is the limit of what people will accept from their government?”

    “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

    -Frederick Douglass

  32. I thought Philadelphia was the City of Brotherly Love? Oh wait, this is Pittsburgh, the City of Gross Constitutional and Human Rights Violations. I want to live THERE!!

  33. #15 re: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13iUAQBQbpw

    at about 30 seconds, you see a girl on her bike about to ride about to ride away gets an unexpected push from behind, nearly off the curb.

    the commentator says “look right here, the police are forcing the cyclists to move.” As she gets off her bike and tries to proceed she is pushed with a baton and nearly falls over her bike she reacts and, as I see it, attempts to “force the police to back off with their unreasonable request to move faster than the people in front of you.” the crowd she was in was moving, complying with the instructions. I don’t understand why the cops had to keep pushing everyone.

    i hope she wins big.

  34. @#37
    “For those of you who feel that this device was an inappropriate way to break up the crowd*, what method would you have preferred?”

    I would prefer if people didn’t ask questions that take for granted the right for those in power to disperse any crowd they choose.


    “The hearing damage is unfortunate”

    I would say it is INACCEPTABLE

    ” I’m willing to bet that there is research ongoing as we type to find some way to be equally obnoxious”

    Yeah it’s been going on for some time in Irak and Quantanamo

    By the way OBNOXIOUS is not a good word for permanent physical damage, it makes you sound like an asshole!

  36. I guess this is what happens when judicial activism, right-wing style, turns the First Amendment into Orwellian ‘free speech zones,’ and with the jackboots all powered up via Homeland Security pork.

    Just wait until they start using the drones.

  37. “I would say it is INACCEPTABLE”

    haha, no. It’s fine to permanently disable people because their political beliefs are unclear to me. It’s not like these people know what they’re doing anyways, not like me sitting in my computer, tap tap tapping into blog after forum after facebook page..

    Besides, we all know their hearing is already ruined by listening to emo music while attending ecstasy raves after the critical mass ride that made me late for television.


  38. I wonder if you could make a parabolic reflector that could send the sound back to the source and, if so, how big/heavy it would need to be?

  39. I’d like to hear a full description of what the protesters were doing, where they were, and how they were violating a law before choosing one side or another.

    What? You mean you didn’t?

    1. what gives them the right to test weapons on the public?

      The fact that they have them. In their case, possession is ten tenths of the law.

  40. So, um, anybody read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow? The whole “disperse before we sonic blast you” thing in Pitt is a lot like that book.

  41. I can’t believe i’m going to post this, i’ve seen Merzbow and Masonna on the same night. but:


    City of Pittsburgh Noise Ordinance

    In response to the Civic Association’s August 1999 meeting, a copy of the city noise ordinance was sent to the Civic Association by Councilman Bob O’Connor’s office. The ordinance is attached below for everyone to review.

    Click here to return to main Regent Square Civic Association page.


    Amending and supplementing the Pittsburgh Code, Title Six, Conduct, Article I, Regulated Rights and
    Actions, Chapter 601, Public Order, Section 601.04, Unnecessary Noise and Sound Amplification
    Devices, by changing the threshold and penalties for violation.

    The Council of the City of Pittsburgh hereby enacts as follows:

    Section 1.

    The Pittsburgh Code, Title Six, Conduct, Article I, Regulated Rights & Actions, Chapter 601,Public Order, Section 601.04 is hereby amended as follows:


    (a) No person shall unnecessarily and repeatedly sound the horn of any vehicle or use any loud signaling device thereon except an emergency vehicle or a vehicle on emergency business.

    (b)No person shall operate or cause to be operated, any audio amplification or reproduction device, including but not limited to an oversized hand carried radio, cassette, compact disc player, or one that is installed in or audio powered by a vehicle, on a city street or sidewalk, in a city park, on a public conveyance. or in any other public property which generates an A-weighted sound level in excess of [85] 68 dB(a) in a residential area measured at, or adjusted to, a distance of 50 feet from the source . If an A- weighted sound device is not present, a violation has occurred if the disturbance is audible to an officer standing in excess of 75 feet away from the source of the disturbance. This subsection shall not apply to audio amplification devices used for open air musical concerts or any other private or public events.

    (c) No person shall operate, or cause to be operated any audio amplification system on public or private property, which generates an A- weighted sound level in excess of 68 dB(a) in a residential area measured at, or adjusted to, a distance of 75 feet beyond the boundary of the property in which the audio amplification or reproduction system is located.

    (d)Sound levels under subsections (b) and (c) hereof shall be measured with a sound level measuring device, either Type I or Type Il as defined by American National Standards institute Specifications. Section 1.4-1971.

    (e)A person operating an audio amplification or reproduction device shall be exempt from this section provided that:

    (1) The device is being operated to request assistance or warn of a hazardous situation; or

    (2)The device is an authorized emergency vehicle or a vehicle operated by gas, electric, communications or water utility; or

    (3) The device is being used in connection with a parade, political activity, amusement activity or communit.v event that is being conducted under any permit issued by the city and is otherwise in compliance with the applicable sections of the Pittsburgh Code provided that the recommended sound level in the applicable subsection is not exceeded between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 am.

    (f)Violation of subsection (b) shall result in the mandatory fine of $150 for a first time violation and a mandatory $300 fine and booting of the vehicle for the second offense.

    Booting of the vehicle shall occur if the fine from the first violation is outstanding. The owner of the vehicle shall be responsible for all costs associated with the booting. Violation of subsection (c) [Noise and sound as prohibited herein] is a public nuisance, disturbing the peace and injurious to the public interest, and may be abated forthwith.

    (Ord. 17-1991, effective 5-24-91)

    SECTION 2.

    Prior to the effective date of this legislation, the Director of Public Safety shall develop a comprehensive noise education program for the purpose of informing, educating and soliciting voluntary cooperation in noise

    SECTION 3.

    The effective date of this legislation shall be October 1, 1998

    SECTION 4.

    That any Ordinance or part of Ordinance conflicting with the provisions of this Ordinance, be and the same is hereby repealed so far as the same affects this Ordinance.

    Ordained and enacted into a law in Council, this 3rd day of
    AUGUST A.D. 1998

    Bob O’Connor, President of Council

    ATTEST: John R. Mascio, Deputy City Clerk of Council
    MAYOR’S OFFICE August 12,1998

    APPROVED: Tom Murphy, Mayor
    ATTEST: M. Linda Gangewer, Mayor’s Secretary

    Recorded in Ordinance Book, Vol.78 Page 244 26th day of August, 1998


    October 1, 1998

    I do hereby certify that the foregoing is a true and correct copy of Ordinance No. 22, Series 1998, as the same appears of record in the office of the City Clerk

    Linda M. Johnson-Wasler
    City Clerk

    Aside: Will there be a Tank Man for the LRAD?

  42. Pretty awesome stuff. For all the complaints the teabaggers have they must be pretty pleased that

    1) They can carry weapons at Town Hall meetings and through a combination of their show of ‘strength’ and heckling pretty much negate said meetings and

    2) For all their whining aboutbeing oppressed the really nasty stuff is still reserved for left wing affliated protestors.

    The more things change huh? Why not just declare that from now on the free speech zones for leftie protesters ends at their front door?

  43. So, how hard can it be to make one of these things? I have to presume there’s no laws restricting their use yet.

  44. Now that this has been used once on protesters, the next time, they will come with ear plugs. It will be the people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time who will end up with the permit hearing loss. To me, that makes this unacceptable. I don’t know enough about the situation to know if the protesters, deserved to be read the riot act or not but I would think that the police have a responsibility to protect non-protesting members of the public to the best of their ability while dispersing illegal crowds.

  45. We’ve come an awfully long way forward since what happened at Kent State, but law enforcement still needs to start backing off a lot more.

    Having officers nearby, but not interfering, in case of a problem is simply prudent… but they desperately need to stop deliberately trying to break up protests.

    Even if a small number of people were being rowdy among the crowd, I wouldn’t like seeing this kind of thing. Everyone else there is still entitled to the presumption of innocence and the preservation of their right of assembly.

    Save the riot gear for actual freaking riots for God’s sake.

  46. @daemon

    I saw a show about these things a while back, and they are actually pretty complicated. They collimate sound into a fairly narrow arc (15-30 degrees) and that is tougher than you might think. They are expensive toys. ($28,000)

    “Carl Gruenler, former vice president of military and government operations for American Technology Corporation (and who now runs a company making a competing device), says that being within 90 metres (98 yd) of the device is extremely painful, but its use should be limited to 270 metres (300 yd) to be effectively used. He concedes that the device is powerful enough to cause permanent auditory damage, but that it is only meant to be used for a few seconds at a time.

    Countermeasures may include the use of passive hearing protection (earplugs, headsets), which may bring the sound down to ineffective levels. In addition, sound could be reflected from a solid surface, and redirected back to the originator.”

  47. So… can we, on behalf of the citizens of City X, declare the Republican National Convention an unlawful assembly and use DIY non-lethal open source weapons to disperse them?

    And might this also apply to ‘gatherings’ of oligarchs who collude and conspire against the proletariat?

  48. #74 He concedes that the device is powerful enough to cause permanent auditory damage, but that it is only meant to be used for a few seconds at a time.

    In the same way tasers are only meant to be used once, right?

  49. “In addition, sound could be reflected from a solid surface, and redirected back to the originator.” ~ Carl Gruenler @ 74

    So… how portable could this solid surface be? Is it a crime yet to redirect sound waves at a police officer? Should we assume they wear ear plugs?

  50. @Heartfruit, no, the idea is that they warn you they’re going to do some damage. If you’re a law-abiding citizen, you’ll disperse in 60 seconds. Anyone else left is fair game.

  51. This is why we need real-life X-Men to develop — so that they can flick their fingers or whatnot and make these weapons fail, mysteriously and completely.

  52. “Should we assume they wear ear plugs?”

    It’s designed to be so loud that it rattles your ribcage and bones — plugging your ears might prevent damage but you’re still going to suffer when it hits you.

    Looks like these are the high-tech versions of the water cannons used against blacks and blacks-sympathizers.

  53. If you’re a law-abiding citizen, you’ll disperse in 60 seconds.

    For any decent-sized crowd, the only way this is possible if they’ve drilled it – i.e. they’re military.

  54. I have a friend in California who reporting having “sonic weapons” used against her on a protest march nearly 5 years ago.

  55. I had some philip glass playing in the background while watching this, so much like a miovie it’s scary… right, now to sample it for some bad boy dubstep!

  56. Yeah well – give a cave-man a club and he’s going to find an excuse to hit someone with it.
    How surprising. :-(

  57. Does anyone else giggle when people use the term teabagger, in a political sense?

    It seems to be quite the popular phrase recently, and I for one think the users should at least acknowledge the other meaning. Maybe with a throw-away double entendre or something. (Or have I just missed the implicit derogatory meaning?)

  58. First time this is publicly used in the US? Mmm. The Chilean police announced this sonic weapon last year. Maybe our protesters were guinea pigs for yours…

  59. protesters should:

    1) fail the complaint about noise, i believe it was far too loud – if anyone of you will put a music in your flat at even 1/3 of this, he or she will get arrested.

    2) all these people should put some money together and buy ”white sound’ machine that neutralizes the sound or the same soundsystem’, pointed at civil servants ear lobes…

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