Ugandan police firing pink-dyed water at protestors

On MSN's photoblog, striking photos of Ugandan police attacking demonstrators with water-canon that fire pink-dyed streams of water. Presumably, the pink dye helped the police track down protestors after the fact.

Ugandan police disperse protesters with water cannon

(Image: James Akena / Reuters)


  1. I wonder what the locals think about the possibility of getting migraines from the dye, rather than the leader and his gang. Maybe they would prefer febreez!

    1. unless their intent was to humiliate (or if they don’t attribute a feminine meaning to the color pink).

  2. The police who are shooting this dye have to be getting it all over themselves as well. How many intra-police beatings are going to be laid down on the guys operating the water cannons.

  3. I wonder how common this sort of technique is…

    Relatively overt taggants, like pink dye or paintball rounds, are pretty obvious; but there are number of products on the market that are both somewhat subtler and more precise.

    So-called ‘SmartWater’ and ‘SelectaDNA’ to name two who came up quickly with some googling, offer solutions containing uniquely coded microdots or trace chemical combinations, along with assorted amounts of adhesive(depending on whether it is for covert tracing of assets or for spraying onto people) and typically a UV-reactive dye for easy location of tagged objects and people.

    It would certainly be more expensive than basic dye, but(especially if you left out the UV-reactive dye) you could fairly precisely and covertly tag people in specific locations for such future forensic purposes as suit you…

  4. The technique is quite common, particularly in Africa. Was used in Tunisia during the protests there, and at least a few other times during recent “Arab Spring” protests.

    Very effective for:
    – Tracking down protestors later
    – Shaming protestors in front of their neighbors
    – Making it easy for neighbors who fear reprisals to be coerced into turning people in to avoid their own beatings “Turn in the protestors if you want to stay safe, they are pink, you can’t claim you don’t know anything.”
    – Economically hurting protestors, because they can’t go back to work/jobs/public places while still pink.

    A really insidious way of violating people’s rights – not acceptable.

      1. Definitely not. This would be psychological warfare or fall under some other such heading as the substances used don’t directly harm the individual it’s the social stigmas that would cause damage. That and the jail time and fines when they track you down.

    1. Don’ start nuthin’ won’ be nuthin’

      But really now, people’s rights? When crowds turn from protest to mob rule I’d rather dye them funky colors and publicly shame them then start using semi– I mean ‘non lethal’ methods. That’s not violating people’s rights. They chose their actions and there are consequences. Know the risks before you charge in with the revolution.

      …or you might end up magenta.

      1. Is there proof that the crowds are turning from protest to mob rule? Have they been violent yet? I’m asking in all honesty. The link didn’t seem to say, and I’m not well-informed on the situation in Uganda at all.

        1. I’m not sure myself in this exact instant. But as Police, Military and Security groups have demonstrated in the past it just takes one out of place person doing something to spark the fire, especially in such charged places like Africa. I’d rather them dye crowds than start firing rounds at them. Locally here in Boston, after a sports win and large crowds of rowdy fans we had a student catch a rubber bullet in the eye socket which killed her. Then there’s the recent kissing riot couple, they were just bystanders not involved with what was going on.

          1. Responsibility goes a both ways. They may have known that the government forces would violate their rights – but that doesn’t justify it.

            Protestor-shaming is like “slut shaming” in rape cases “If you didn’t want to be raped, why did you dress up so pretty? Aren’t you ‘personally responsible’ for your actions?”

          2. “such charged places like Africa” which of the 61 territories on the continent are you referring to? There are many different governments/countries/cultures/economies/etc. To refer to it as a place of singularity would be analogous to saying that Asia kidnapped Euna Lee and Laura Ling when you are referring to North Korea. 

            Also, the dying of protesters is not a form of crowd control, it is a form of branding which is done with the intent of being able to identify people later. What do you think will happen to anyone dyed pink, protester or bystander, later when they police come to their door? Perhaps they will join the nine unarmed people who were killed Monday at the protests, three of whom were shot in the back as they ran away.

          3. There are legit means to disperse an actual violent mob, but that isn’t the purpose here – it is to find and intimidate dissidents. Using dye to spray a criminal who breaks a store window is fine – that person committed a legitimate crime and should be found. Spraying anyone who disagrees with your government so you can easily round them up later for illegal detention and questioning is a violation of human rights.

            Of course they knew the consequences going into the protest, but they also knew the consequences of NOT protesting. Just knowing that your rights are going to be violated doesn’t justify the act of violating your rights.

  5. > Presumably, the pink dye helped the police track down protesters after the fact.

    Or, they just want the protesters to look fabulous.

  6. > it just takes one out of place person doing something to spark the fire

    OR! One agent provocateur. Do we still have to pretend the police are protecting the public here? The police are protecting their bosses. They’ll do anything they can to make it look like the protestors needed to be violently squashed or humiliated. It’s all about control.

  7. In Cape Town, in the 80s, the police used purple die on the people demonstrating against Apartheid. This gave rise to graffiti shortly thereafter, “Power to the Purple” was one of them…

  8. In the panic over ‘striking back’ at the ‘miscreants’ that rioted in the UK, a bunch of old fart gasbag politicians did mention dye. More than once.

    A recent wire article mentioned that apparently the idea was considered way back in the 70s to deal with the Irish situation. No idea if that is where it originates or if it was invented in the UK.-G.

  9. So, protesters are responsible for the repressive actions that government thugs take? 

    That’s your idea of personal responsibility? 

  10. I wonder how long before non-governmental thugs (or governmental thugs not acting under government authority at that moment) come up with a new scam: water guns filled with dyed water.  “Pay me or you’ll look like a protester.”

  11. In other news, Uganda has seen a striking decrease in cases of heartburn, nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, and indigestion.

  12. If you visit a convenience store in Tokyo, you may notice a couple of fluorescent orange baseballs behind the counter.  They’re actually soft-skinned and filled with dye, so that the clerk can throw them at people who cause trouble or try to rob the store—same idea as above, basically.

    The interesting thing to note is that this grew out of a technique where police wanting to identify protesters in the 1968 student riots actually threw eggs at the protesters…

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