Meet the people who make money from protests

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Meet the people who make money from protests

People are fighting against the cuts, but other people are making money from stopping them protesting, writes Anna Feigenbaum.


You can make money from stopping protests with "less lethals" (‘not too dangerous’ weapons). Visitors saw this at the Milipol security expo. (© Francois Mori/AP Photos)

It’s like any normal expo, with champagne and hot dogs. But there is a row of machine guns at the end. There are glass cases full of teargas, sound grenades and rubber bullets. There are life-sized models of people. But they are not wearing fashion, but body armour.

This is Milipol, the largest internal security expo in Europe. Milipol has been running since 1984 and is the most established security trade show for military and policing. The 2013 event in Paris had more than 900 exhibitors, 27,000 visitors and 160 official delegations.

These exhibitions give governments and business officials the chance to look at the newest weapons for riot-control and discuss how they control people and crowds. These expos take place all around the world, from Israel to India, Qatar to Canada. They are part of the quickly growing security business. This business should expand by 20 per cent by 2020.

Some of the biggest companies in the ‘less lethal’ market are Combined Systems Inc and Non-Lethal Technologies (both in the US), Israel’s ISPRA and Brazil’s Condor Non-Lethal Technologies. Southeast Asian suppliers are growing and a lot of the materials they make the weapons from come from China and India, where exports are cheap.

In recent years, international companies have joined together with other companies more. So they can work in more countries. Condor, for example, is outside the European Union (EU), and it is working with smaller companies inside the EU, where the regulations are not so strict.

Since 2011, more “less lethal technologies” for crowd control have been sold. So security salespeople are making a lot of money from protests. ‘There are a lot of protests in many regions of the world, from protesters in Brazil to activists in the Middle East. So governments have bought more non-lethal weapons,’ says ‘Economies are uncertain, the political situation is complicated, and there is less security across the globe. So there are more protests,’ said investment researchers at Markets and Markets.

Magazines use the protests to sell their products. One magazine, for a big global defence company TAR, says that there were more than 60 big riots in 2012-13 because of ‘poverty, oppression, hunger, race or religion’. So city and government leaders should buy products from their ‘ONE STOP SHOP to help public safety.


The latest model – what will riot police be wearing this year? (ABACA ABACA PRESS/ABACA/Press Association Images)

One solution for crowd-control solution (shown at Milipol 2013) was the Samson NL RW5 – a 360-degree rotating, rapid-fire multi-lethal response system for ‘low-intensity conflicts violence’, by Israeli company Rafael. It does not yet have ‘safety’ approval for the commercial market. It has LRAD (long-range acoustic technology) and Combined Systems Inc’s Venom grenade launcher for coloured smoke and flash bangs. Rafael have sold more than 4,000 of their base systems already, and they are expecting to sell a lot more.

It is important for countries like Brazil, with the 2014 Football World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, to show they can keep public order. But there are many unhappy people in Brazil because of cuts to public services and transport, corruption and people forced to move from their homes.

Condor, a company based in Rio, makes a lot of money. The company has won a $22-million contract as part of the World Cup’s security budget, providing teargas, rubber bullets, light and sound grenades, and tasers. ‘We always advise the right level of force,’ says Beni Iachan, a senior business analyst for Condor.

Their advertising poster shows a chart with six levels of enforcement, each one with Condor products. Condor offers a product for every riot control officer to control protests. Condor sells to the police, and their business has grown over 30 per cent in the past five years.

Because of social media, “less lethals” are better. ‘The police can no longer beat people,’ an executive from Combined Systems Inc says. Because of mobile video and YouTube, Facebook and Twitter people can record and share police violence. So it is more difficult for police officers to use physical force at protests.

Campaigning for change

NATO says we do not know enough about the real human impacts of using less lethals. Their 2006 report said we do not have enough information, or the information is not relevant.

But there is a lot of research on the harm caused by these weapons. Medical association journals and NGO groups such as Physicians for Human Rights have shown the bad effects of teargas for years, and they want governments to stop their use.

Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Omega, have published many reports on the abuse of such weapons by state forces.


Promoted as non-lethal, weapons such as tasers and flash-bang grenades can cause horrific injuries and even death. (Anja Kanngeiser)

Maybe we need to ban them completely. But we really need to stop companies selling “less lethals” as the solution for dealing with political protest. ‘It is important to show governments the terrible results,’ says Ian Pocock of London Campaign Against Arms Trade. We must put more pressure on our officials to stop companies making money from protests.

Anna Feigenbaum is a Lecturer in Media and Politics at Bournemouth University

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