Are Canadian exports being used to repress Black Lives Matter protests in the United States?

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo from The Guardian by Samuel Corum/AFP/Getty.

This summer, the American Civil Liberties Union noted their concerns about the “unconstitutional attacks” on the right to protest by local police and federal agents deployed in Portland, Oregon.

The question has also arisen, who is arming this repression?

As such, there have been investigative reports and parliamentary questions about British-made riot control equipment being used against protests in the United States.

The Guardian now reports: “US law enforcement officers used British anti-riot gear to strike protesters during their controversial policing of Black Lives Matter demonstrations… Officers deployed at demonstrations in Washington DC hit protesters and in one case a journalist using shields made by the British-based firm DMS Plastics.”

The article adds: “Images from late May and June show a number of incidents of law enforcement units holding Scorpion-brand shields made by DMS, including the US park police, the Secret Service and Arlington county police.”

These findings are part of a joint investigation by The Guardian, Sky News, Bellingcat, and Lighthouse Reports.

Similarly, there have been some investigative reports about possible Canadian exports to the police in Hong Kong and Belarus.

This past July, The Globe and Mail reported: “A Canadian government official … said Ottawa wants to prevent equipment being shipped to Hong Kong that could be used by the local police to suppress protests.”

That article also notes that Canada may have in the past exported tear gas or riot-control equipment, as well as electronic jamming equipment.

More recently, The Globe and Mail also reported that Predator riot-control vehicles appear to be being used against protests in Belarus. The company that manufactures that vehicle was founded in Canada but now has 12 production facilities around the world.

But what about Canadian exports to the United States?

In July, NBC affiliate KGW8 reported that a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Beechcraft Super King Air 350 flew over Black Lives Matter protests in Portland for almost three hours. It’s possible that the engine for this aircraft was made by Pratt Whitney & Canada.

There was also an Instagram post about an unconfirmed sighting of a Stryker armoured vehicle in Portland. The General Dynamics plant in London, Ontario has manufactured Stryker vehicles for export to the United States.

Still, it is not clear if Canadian-made riot gear, tear gas, rubber bullets, riot-control vehicles or other equipment have been used in the United States.

Labour MP Emily Thornberry has stated: “The British public deserve to know how arms exported by this country are being used across the world and the American public deserve the right to protest peacefully without the threat of violent repression.”

We think the Canadian public has a right to know as well.

This summer, the Scottish Parliament voted to suspend the export of riot control gear to the United States and 166 British Members of Parliament from nine parties (including the Conservatives, Labour and the Greens) signed a letter making the same demand. Similar efforts by Canadian MPs would be welcome.

A core mandate of Peace Brigades International is to reduce violence and open up political space for social change.

PBI-Canada notes that the right to protest is enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but that the lack of transparency and accountability regarding the export of equipment used against protests undermines this fundamental right in the US and in other countries around the world.

To register for our webinar on police violence on October 30, that will feature defenders from Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Kenya and Canada, please click here.


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