More on the LRAD sound cannon at Pittsburgh G20 protests

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Dean Putney took the photos of the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) used in the Pittsburgh G20 protest. He says:

My roommate and I went to check things out downtown to see how the riot was coming along. We stopped here along with the news crews and a few spectators to watch. Police came in off of city buses in groups of about 50 or so and down the street (in the UPitt campus) they were setting off smoke grenades, tear gas and using the LRAD. The police warned protestors to leave multiple times over the loudspeaker before and during their use of force.

Shortly after we arrived that one girl threw her bicycle at an officer. My roommate and I are in the news footage of that. We stuck around for a while afterwards, watched these trucks and the SWAT team vans go by, collected a couple of the smoke grenade cartridges and went home. The cartridges are pretty cool, 40mm rounds. Each one costs about $25, and there were at least a dozen of them on the street where we were.

Previously: G20 protesters blasted by sonic cannon


  1. @Brainspore

    Oakland is a suburb of Pittsburgh. It’s where the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon are located.

  2. So if my eyes didn’t deceive me while watching the Youtube clip:

    (1) Crowd, including bicyclists, herded along by cops.
    (2) Woman with bike is moving, but gets pushed from behind at least once, and then another officer pushes her from a different direction with his baton as he passes by.
    (3) Woman “throws” bicycle.
    (4) Woman gets clocked on the head with baton.


  3. Question: Could you defeat an LRAD by playing white noise through headphones?
    I live in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh and chose not to participate in the chaos of Thursday and Friday night, but I did march on Friday afternoon. Plenty of police had shotguns and some wicked looking air rifles for rubber grenades.

  4. yeah, the woman on the bike thing was completely uncalled for. i dont get it. She was going where they wanted her to go… why the aggravation?

  5. Why are the weapons that the police used on protesters ‘cool’?

    I’m not really getting the blase attitude of this post. It sounds as if the violent clashes between protesters and the police were some kind of spectator sport that had nothing to do with the G20.

    But maybe that’s what demonstrations have become, an apolitical spectacle for bored college kids who get excited about neat crowd control technology.

  6. @Bookguy

    A little back story to her:

    I was across the street, at the police barricade. We saw her group go up to the corner on the other side of the street, so we crossed to see if we could get up there and closer to the action.

    As we crossed, the police told their group that they had to move back, but they refused and continued to move towards the barricade. They pushed up against the barricade, and the police started to push them back.

    I got caught up with them as they were pushed back. It was apparent that the girl and the other people in her clump were moving slowly on purpose to impede the police from pushing everyone else. That’s when she threw her bicycle.

    One guy on a bike also was pushed up against a car and back into the group, but really the police didn’t push anyone else too much once that girl got out of the way.

  7. “Could you describe in your own words what happened?”

    “I was walking in a public place, wheeling my bicycle, when I was struck from behind without warning.”

    “I see. What happened then?”

    “I turned around, and saw a large, heavily-built man behind me. He was dressed in dark clothing, wearing a helmet and his face was concealed by a visor. He carried a heavy club in his hand and was acting aggressively. I noticed that there was also a second man beside him, dressed and equipped similarly.”

    “So what did you do?”

    “I turned around and threatened my attackers with the only weapon at my disposal.”

    “In self-defense?”

    “Yes, in self-defense.”

    “What happened then?”

    “Both men assaulted me, knocked me to the ground and, assisted by others, dragged me across the street, where they proceeded to tie my arms behind my back.”

    “I see. So, to sum up, you were assaulted without provocation, overpowered, restrained, abducted and detained against your will. In the course of this assault your property, namely a bicycle, was taken from you. You were, in short, mugged at taxpayer expense. Is that a fair statement of the facts?”

    “I think it is, yes.”

    “Thank you. I have no further questions for this witness, your honor.”

  8. I think cops get a bad rap much of the time, but things like this don’t help. Based on what I saw here (granted, we didn’t see the moments prior to the incident), I think the cops were out of line. The girl was moving away from them and they kept shoving her. The second cop hitting her in the back with the baton was way out of line. Cops in this country have WAY too much power. I am not anti-police, but nonsense like this is inexcusable.

  9. 1) Oakland is not a “suburb” of Pittsburgh, but part of Pittsburgh. Not the downtown proper, but part of the city
    2) As a resident of the area, who walked through a protest zone, I contest the idea that the police went overboard with non-lethal violence.
    3) Further, as a protest veteran, I’ve watched my friends trampled by horses. Your “OMG sonic weapons” bullshit doesn’t fly.
    4) As a protest veteran, I am the person that asembeled . I have been to protest, dodged police batons, and my summary: you weekend revolutionists are full of shit. The police were relatively well behaved, given the circumstances.

    Who’s streets? OURS. Behave yourselves, treat the communal property with respect, and you won’t have to deal with peppergas.

  10. @blacksquare: “But maybe that’s what demonstrations have become, an apolitical spectacle for bored college kids who get excited about neat crowd control technology.”

    Are you not paying attention? That’s what protests became a decade ago.

  11. “I’ve watched my friends trampled by horses. Your “OMG sonic weapons” bullshit doesn’t fly.”

    While this isn’t Chicago ’68, non-lethal anti-riot weapons kind of freak me out precisely because people aren’t being hurt. These are (ideally) perfect weapons – they just cause pain. You don’t get to see the protesters being trampled and beaten and shot, even though they may be feeling pain comparable to that. Instead you see protesters falling over, getting sick, running away. And you think… cowards… losers… idiots…

    Whereas before a protester in a riot gets battle scars and a slot on the evening news, today’s victim of non-lethal weaponry gets to keep their spleen but they don’t get to protest if the state doesn’t want it, and they don’t get to protest the riot police because there’s no violence. Cops are smart.

  12. Pittsburgh, Pa is the only place with that spelling in the country. One near Oakland must be Pittsburg.

    THe post office homogenized the spelling of Burg (Brugh, Burg, berg, bergh, etc) and PGH, PA was the only place to object and change their name back to an unofficial spelling.

  13. BlackSquare,

    I’ve been pushed, slapped and chased by police in lots of protests. But if I found an empty smoke-round on the ground, or a truncheon or gasmask, I’d think “cool!”, and yoink it.

  14. Sheesh, the US needs their own Ian Tomlinson.

    There was also another case of police brutality in Berlin on YouTube, the protesters were great that they were defiant, they started yelling “We are peaceful, and what are you?!?”.

  15. The video of the cops beating on the girl with the bike really makes you want to throw something at a cop.

    I mean, I do think cops are often given a near impossible job, but if I ever found myself in job where I needed to hit women half my size with sticks because despite doing what I said, they didn’t move fast enough, I think I would walk off the job and never look back.

  16. Boss: Sorry, Luke. I’m just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that.
    Luke: Nah – calling it your job don’t make it right, Boss.

  17. @t3knomanser: The police were relatively well behaved, given the circumstances.

    Tell that to the countless college kids who weren’t even involved in the protest and ended up getting tackled and arrested, gassed, pepper sprayed, and beaten. Simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – the wrong place being their own campus.

    Your statements imply that the victims are to blame for the violence that was inflicted on them, and that is a disgusting position coming from anyone, let alone a self-declared “protest veteran”.

  18. Since ‘Government’ can do nothing right, Conservatives must hate the G20.

    Those must all be angry Conservatives in the streets getting zapped by sound cannons.

  19. I agree with Zikzak. Sure, there are a lot of ‘weekend revolutionaries’, but fuck…that’s better than nothing.

    Your comments have a tone of self-righteousness seen all too often in this context. The “real” representatives talking smack to the “wanna-be’s”.

    Which comes off kinda strange given that you go on to be an apologist for state power. The cops that hit that girl did not behave “relatively well.”

    And yeah, @22, it really makes me angry to see that. My knee-jerk reaction is to attack that fucking cop. To break his fucking face. That shit was wrong, and that mother fucker should not be.

  20. I was a bit disappointed to discover that these LRAD devices are basically just loud, annoying beepers. What happened to those awesome microwave cannons that trigger pain-response nerves and make it feel like you’re skin or being burnt away?

    Still…I wonder how many of these protestors realize how easy it is to build a counter-LRAD decibel-reducing device. Or, for that matter, a tuned microwave cannon. If I were a student at Pitt or CMU now, I’d be buying up or stealing every used microwave oven I could find and stocking up on car batteries.

  21. ANON#14: The reason “cops get a bad rap much of the time” is because they earn it. Day in, day out, they earn it. This is simply a manifestation of the growing class distinction between “cops” and those they rule. People are routinely arrested, tased and worse for merely offending officers – let alone exorcising their constitutional rights. This girl gets the “beat down” because it is socially acceptable for a LEO to physically abuse a citizen. It is so much so, that some will rise up to defend the aggressor. Disgusting.

    DXTR666 – you hit the nail on the head.

  22. Modern cops would be outmatched by the tough fucks who tossed tea into Boston Harbor and who formed militias that destroyed British ass.

    Modern cops are also incapable of owning an intelligent respect for freedom and liberty.

    Frankly, the industrial-grade cop has been cut from authoritarian cloth resembling nothing truly American.

    Fuck them harsh.

  23. @Dean

    Thanks for the additional info, although I have to admit I’m still disturbed by the police behavior in that video. Once she was moving in the direction the cops wanted, I can’t see the justification for the continued shoving, with batons, from behind and to her side.

  24. Also…WHERE could she go. Even with the justification that they were moving slowly, she still couldn’t pass THROUGH the people in front of her.

    If a cop has you up against a brick wall…and tells you to keep walking…and, since you CAN’T walk through concrete he starts beating you…is he justified?

    Now…if you COULD walk through concrete…I think you’d see the cop sh!t his pants.


    As irritating as they can be, cops are still people, and I suspect they cover a wide spectrum of both “tough” and capability for respect for freedom and liberty. As tempting as it may be to de-humanize them by saying that they are “cut from authoritarian cloth” and that they “resemble nothing truly american”, perhaps recognizing that they are just people doing a tough job will ratchet down the level of hatred and confrontation.
    Might be worth a try. Unless, of course, hatred and violent confrontation are what you seek.

  26. @9

    No, white noise wouldn’t cancel the LRAD’s frequency. A good pair of noise-cancelling headphones could do the trick. I’m not 100% sure on the technical specifics of LRAD, but noise-cancelling phones take out ambient sound waves by projecting their own exact opposite ones, cancelling eachother. In theory, simple physics like that could defeat this thing.

  27. #35 Danlalan: perhaps recognizing that they are just people doing a tough job

    Firemen are just people doing a tough job. Construction workers are just people doing a tough job. Cops are, on the whole, schoolyard bullies who never grew out of enjoying the chance to kick someone’s ass and get away with it. There’s a spectrum of people there, sure enough, but it’s definitely weighted toward the bad end.

    It only makes matters worse when you consider the Thin Blue Line, and how hard it makes it to prosecute even blatant corruption and abuse. That fact alone leads me to conclude that there’s no such thing as a good cop.

    And before you kneejerk, I actually personally know some cops. They honestly truly believe the law does not apply to them. They may be right.

  28. …I actually personally know some cops.

    Well, this certainly qualifies you to make blanket statements.

    We have met the enemy, and he is us.

  29. I say if the cops are going to bear up like they’re getting ready for a hell of a fight, they should get it eventually.

    Not only will that give people a chance to see their tax dollars at work, it may piss a few people off.

    People may want to take a peaceful approach thinking that acting out will make them look bad, but in the event of any police action they end up looking bad anyway.

    Strike action and protests are about asserting one’s right to express a grievance. It’s not about getting chased all over town while getting attacked from behind.

    If it’s worth going to the line for, stand and hold that line.

    Sound weapons are a joke. Tear gas only stings for a minute. Getting pushed around lasts a lifetime.

  30. Every police brutality article has this good cop bad cop discussion.

    Cops are varied like all people. Everyone knows this. Holding them collectively accountable is impossible.

    But they have leaders. Public figures, elected people who give the orders, set the policy and distribute LRAD cannons.

    No beat cop gave the funding or permission for this device to be used, and if it was banned they’d stop using it; they’re simply not part of the issue.

  31. “No beat cop gave the funding or permission for this device to be used, and if it was banned they’d stop using it; they’re simply not part of the issue.” “I was only obeying orders” hasn’t been a valid defense since Nurnberg.

  32. “I was only obeying orders” hasn’t been a valid defense since Nurnberg{sic}.

    Ok, Godwin, agreed…but the equivalency you’re trying to make doesn’t pass the smell test. (and it’s “Nuremburg”, btw)

  33. So, did anyone find out if ear plugs are an effective defense against the LRAD?

    According to the manufacturer, yes. Make ’em good ones tho.

  34. Actually it’s Nurnberg with an umlat over the ‘U’. I lived in Germany for 3 years just south of there.

  35. “No beat cop gave the funding or permission for this device to be used, and if it was banned they’d stop using it; they’re simply not part of the issue.”

    “I was only obeying orders” hasn’t been a valid defense since Nurnberg.

    Can we wait until after a solution is found before working out who is to blame for the problem?

  36. Actually you have to put the ‘r’ in yourself too. I didn’t preview, because BB’s preview is pretty fucked when it comes to HTML.

  37. I apologize in advance for the pedantry, but….

    We don’t speak German in the US, we speak American English. In Chinese, it’s 北京, in English, it’s Beijing. In Italian, it’s Roma, in English, it’s Rome. In German, it’s Nürnberg, in English, it’s Nuremberg.

  38. What a dangerous crowd of protesters, who could be using the streets with their dirty bikes. This courageous officer sure did a great job smashing his fist in that young girl’s face.

    @Felix Mitchell, Danlalan and others:

    As long as cops won’t act as free individuals, I won’t see and treat them like free individuals. They are paid not to act as individuals, but to embody law enforcement. Afaik, they have a choice in what job they want to exercise. I don’t respect the choice they make and even criticize it. So when I say that e.g. cops are all assholes, I mean it. You actually need stronger evidence than the fact that “they are human beings too”, to change my mind.

  39. it looks like they’re picking on her because she’s the only one still riding her bicycle?

    — not that i’m endorsing shoving with a baton as a method of enforcing ‘traffic management’ or anything.

  40. @FAILIX

    They may well all be assholes, but that’s such a controversial generalisation that it often derails any discussion. I also think it is largely irrelevant to whether we can improve on things – beat cops, whether assholes or saints, make few if any decisions about how they are employed.

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