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This Company Is Profiting From Police Aggression In Ferguson

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WASHINGTON -- If there's a winner from the militarized police aggression in Ferguson, Missouri, it would have to be the tear gas industry.

Officers bombarded city streets with tear gas for hours on Wednesday night, bathing Ferguson in a noxious cloud. At times, the police assault appeared to target journalists. Citizens have protested for days over Saturday's fatal shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by a police officer, who authorities have refused to name.

It's boom time for the tear gas industry, as law enforcement agencies turn to chemical weapon to combat political unrest abroad and protest movements at home. As Sarah Kliff detailed for Vox, the use of tear gas in international warfare is banned by the Geneva Convention -- but it is increasingly a weapon of choice for governments to deploy against their own people.

A June report from Visiongain, a business intelligence consultant, valued the global market for "non-lethal" weapons at $1.6 billion, which it predicted would increase over the next decade. "Our research indicates that non-lethal anti-personnel weapons are becoming increasingly high in demand particularly from law enforcement agencies," Visiongain said in a press release.

The domestic tear gas industry is dominated by three companies -- Jamestown, Pennsylvania-based Combined Systems Inc., Homer City, Pennsylvania-based NonLethal Technologies Inc., and Defense Technology, a Casper, Wyoming-based brand owned by the Safariland law enforcement supply company.

Safariland's Defense Technology appears to be the brand in Ferguson, based on photographs of canisters found on the scene taken by journalists from The Guardian and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Guardian photographer Jon Swaine has also documented explosives in Ferguson that were manufactured by Combined Systems. Ferguson police were not available to comment.

"In the U.S., most police departments maintain stockpiles of tear gas munitions and launchers for riot control," said Sven-Erik Jordt, a professor in the Duke University School of Medicine anesthesiology department. "Defense Technology cartridges were used by police to clear the Occupy protesters in Oakland, for example."

Safariland tear gas has also been deployed in Bahrain, Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia and other countries, according to the War Resisters League, a nonprofit group that promotes nonviolence. HuffPost's Joshua Hersh reported from Cairo in 2011 that the use of U.S.-manufactured tear gas weapons against protesters in Egypt had fueled anti-American sentiment.

Neither Safariland nor the other tear gas manufacturers would comment for this article. They tout their products as humane alternatives to more violent force, though some experts have attributed deaths to tear gas. Safariland has trademarked the Orwellian phrase "Together, we save lives."

The companies aggressively promote their wares to U.S. police departments. The War Resisters League has levied particular criticism at Urban Shield, an annual weapons expo in California that caters to law enforcement agencies.

"The targets are always communities of color and poor people, especially when they are actively struggling for justice. We feel that community's very ability to build movements is on the line," said Ali Issa, a national field organizer with the War Resisters League. "Tear gas and the police militarization that always comes with it do not appear in Ferguson and nationwide in a vacuum." Issa noted that the Department of Defense has been supplying hundreds of millions of dollars worth of "excess" military equipment to law enforcement agencies in recent years.

There are three general types of tear gas. The most common is 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile, or CS. Other varieties include phenacyl chloride, or CN gas, which Jordt described as more toxic than CS, and oleoresin capsicum, or OC, derived from hot peppers. All make people feel awful.

See updates on the situation in Ferguson below:

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USA Today's Yamiche Alcindor provides an intimate look at how Michael Brown's parents have been dealing with the loss of their son:

Phones constantly ring with reporters asking for interviews or family members offering support. Last week, as demands reached a tipping point, both parents moved into hotels to shield themselves.

In the days leading up to the funeral, Brown's mother continued to cry and spoke in whispers as she tried to explain her feelings.

"They say tomorrow is going to be the hardest day, but I think today was — just seeing my baby laying there, cold," Lesley McSpadden, 34, told USA TODAY. "It did something to my heart. It's too much. It's too much."

Read the rest at USA Today.

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New audio has surfaced that allegedly captures the moment when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot dead by Darren Wilson, a white police officer, on Aug. 9.

CNN aired the unverified recording on Monday night. Six shots can be heard, followed by a pause, then several more. A private autopsy performed on Aug. 17 at the request of Brown's family found that the 18-year-old was shot 6 times, including twice in the head.

Read the rest here.

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USA Today reporter, Yamiche Alcindor shares photo of program which includes tributes to Michael Brown from his mother and father

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08/25/2014 11:57 AM EDT
Program For The Funeral
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08/25/2014 11:04 AM EDT
Noteworthy Funeral Attendees
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08/25/2014 10:58 AM EDT
Waiting For Brown's Family
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08/25/2014 10:57 AM EDT
Police Captain Ron Johnson Arrives
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08/25/2014 10:45 AM EDT
Mo. Sen. To Attend Funeral
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08/25/2014 10:37 AM EDT
Casket In Place

MSNBC reports:

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08/25/2014 10:35 AM EDT
Funeral Security
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08/25/2014 10:33 AM EDT
Brown's Father Asks For Peace
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MSNBC reports:

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08/25/2014 10:26 AM EDT
Hands Up
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08/25/2014 10:22 AM EDT
Sanctuary Filling Fast For Funeral

CNN reports:

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Missouri congressman Lacy Clay (D) said on Thursday that he had "serious concerns" about the prosecutor in charge of Michael Brown's case.

"I also have serious concerns about the local prosecutors, about their ability to fairly prosecute this case in the interests of justice. To deliver justice to this community, or to Michael Brown's family. And I say that because we have a track record," Clay told CNN.

Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch has come under heavy scrutiny in the days following Brown's death. Critics say that McCulloch's ties to law enforcement will cloud his judgement and have called on Governor Jay Nixon (D) to appoint a special prosecutor instead. A petition against him has received over 70,000 signatures.

McCulloch's father was a police officer killed in the line of duty.

For his part, McCulloch has promised that his investigation will be fair and thorough. In a statement, he said:

I have no intention of walking away from the responsibilities and duties entrusted to me by the people of this community. Additionally, there is no basis in the law to do so. I have faithfully and fairly carried out those responsibilities and duties for more than two decades and will continue to do so for at least the next four years.

Nixon has also repeatedly insisted that he won't take McCulloch off the case.

Alana Horowitz

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From HuffPost's Dave Jamieson:

Like the rest of the St. Louis community, including their own teachers, Gateway students had emotional discussions about being black in America, about mistrust of the police, about peaceful demonstration and violent protest. They were asked to write down what they were feeling about Ferguson, with the assurance that no sentiments were out of bounds.

Click here to read excerpts from the responses penned by a group of 7th and 8th graders at the school.

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Washington Post reports that Darren Wilson was injured following a scuffle with Michael Brown before he shot and killed him.

A family friend told WaPo that Wilson's eye bone was fractured. Fox News reported similar information earlier this week, citing a police source.

Another source told CNN that these reports are false.

Last week, Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told reporters that Wilson was taken to the hospital following the incident, but did not say for what.

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HuffPost's Arthur Delaney reports:

When Attorney General Eric Holder went to Ferguson, Missouri, on Wednesday, he assured local residents the U.S. Justice Department will swiftly investigate the police killing of an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9.

In meetings with locals, Holder emphasized how his own past experiences will inform his work overseeing the Justice Department's investigation of Michael Brown's killing. He told students at a community college there that police searched his car when he'd been stopped for speeding on the New Jersey Turnpike.

"I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me," Holder said. "The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the attorney general of the United States."

But Holder's critics point out that this is the same man who was woefully soft on bad cops when he served as Washington, D.C.'s top prosecutor in the mid-1990s.

"Relying on Holder to take action is like sending a guy with a cup of water to put out a wildfire," said Gregory Lattimer, an attorney who has represented family members of people killed by D.C. police, including DeOnte Rawlings, a 14-year-old boy shot in the back of the head by an off-duty officer in 1997.

"[Holder] was part of the problem in D.C., not the solution," Lattimer said. "He says all the right things and then he goes out and defends the status quo."

Read more here.

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