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Pepper Spray 101

(edited by +Toby Bartels , with addenda by +Gabriel Perren)

special to occupados everywhere (reshare, tweet, and forward)

Pepper spray is made out of the same hot stuff as tabasco sauce (oleo capsicum). It feels like it's burning. If you're sensitive to tabasco, you'll be sensitive to being sprayed.

There are different kinds of spray, and different strengths. They can have additives that make your nose run like a faucet, and make you feel like you can't breathe. So, while whatever got sprayed is burning like the depths of hell, you might feel like you're not getting enough air as well. This will have the effect of (a) making your brain absolutely shut down and focus on breathing, and (b) you will quit fighting if you were fighting in the first place.

A bandanna only prolongs the agony unless you rip it off immediately, and as I said, there's different kinds...

There's foam, which sticks to whatever it hits and stays and burns, and there's a thinner more watery kind that just runs everywhere, and there's riot fog.

Riot fog you will know because it comes in canister form, sort of like a fire-extinguisher, and is what Dog the Bounty Hunter carries. Riot fog is formulated to be the hottest of all these varieties because it's designed for application to a large group - like a jail block that's rioting.

OK so now you know the general basics, here's how this goes down...

First, an officer will give you a command. For the sake of discussion, let's assume it is the command to disperse. You have two choices, you can obey the command, or you can refuse the command, in which case, Bad Things will occur. You are free to make that choice. The officers, however, aren't free to ignore your disobedience; they have been trained to believe that they must enforce the command.

If you get sprayed, remember it burns like a mofo, and you won't be able to see for a bit, so sit down. I don't say this lightly, I've seen one person who ran into a tree once because he freaked out when he got sprayed during training. Again, it's gonna hurt and burn, but in about 15 minutes it'll ease up some. Staying calm is a tall order, but as for myself (when I was sprayed during my own training, and on the job), I focused on, in/out...and waited. There's no shame in vomiting, crying, or anything like that - I've seen grown HUGE guys do it. If an officer grabs you, do not fight them physically. Arms do break, and they are trained in control tactics and pressure points that hurt on top of the burn. Again, do NOT fight; you are not in a position where this will be successful, and you may get more criminal charges than you originally planned for and undermine any "peaceful protester" creds that you might want. Make sure your hands are empty and clearly visible, then sit down, and if they stand you up to cuff you, don't just go limp (unless you want to resist arrest), but stand like an ordinary person; you've already committed civil disobedience when you didn't comply with the first order. In any case, if you try breaking Billy-Badass after you know you're gonna be arrested, you'll just get seriously hurt. Don't do that.

First Aid for spray: if you can rinse with water, rinse your eyes, but DO NOT let it run down your neck, chest, stomach etc. Don't get the run-off onto your clothes - that just holds it against your skin longer. DO NOT RUB, OR TOUCH ANYTHING - ESPECIALLY YOUR EYES. It just makes it burn more. There's no magic thing that makes it quit burning. I've seen beaucoup money wasted on milk, honey, or any other rumor - no - the oil in the stuff sticks to your skin, and it's gonna burn.

In about an hour, you'll be ok, but it'll still burn and tingle. At some point, you'll want to take a shower. Please remember what I tell you: Do Not Take a Shower in Such a Way That The Run-Off From The Sprayed Parts Gets On The Unsprayed and Formerly Clothed Parts. Pepper spray on your genitals is worse than a Bad Thing. Sweat - ordinary sweat - will reactivate it. You'll be driving along the next day and it'll come back and burn some more if you bust a sweat. Just know it'll happen.

If you subsequently get arrested, don't expect first-aid. You'll be lucky to get a fan. Why? Because in all seriousness, the water doesn't really do anything but cool it off extremely briefly and spread the oil around a little more so it can burn some more. So don't interpret "no first aid" as "being uncaring". There really is nothing that makes it not hurt/burn.

Last things - when you're sitting there thinking your face is melting off, it's not. An actual chemical reaction to the spray itself is very rare. If you can still talk, you can breathe adequately as well, no matter how it makes you feel. Also remember, the cops that sprayed you know exactly how you feel because they've been sprayed just like you were. They know you'll get through it, and they didn't do it to intentionally be a jerk to you personally, even if you do believe they made a bad call.

Final note: pepper spray hurts, but tasers hurt worse, and I'd rather be sprayed than tased, or batonned, or hit with less-than-lethal rounds (including pepper balls).

Sit down, feel free to vomit, cry, and snot, and thank you for contributing to a greater awareness of constitutional democracy. Stay safe, no matter which side of the line you're on. We're all people.

Mr. Perren makes the following points: "As long as you remain non-violent, the police officer should apply no excessive force unto you (ie: knee on your neck, arm bent too high behind your back, pepper spray to your face/down your throat, etc..) If you feel excessive force is applied, request the officer's name so as to initiate legal actions later on. Going limp is not being violent and you are free to do it, but you might be charged with resisting arrest depending on the jurisdiction An actual chemical reaction to the spray itself is very rare but not impossible so if you're thinking your face is melting off, request for medical assistance immediately, *it's your right.*"

To which I respond: "Excessive force" as a term is a concept regarding which a trained officer, and a non-trained civilian have completely divergent concepts. The argument over what, exactly, legally constitutes excessive force occurs in a courtroom in reference to law, or in an office in reference to policy, not on the street. THEREFORE, I highly recommend compliance following the initial civil disobedience, and perhaps if you so choose, the 'going limp' routine. It is, however, still your own personal choice. As for medical attention, feel free to request that if you think you need it. As for the officer's name and badge number, there will be numerous written reports which will have that information available to you and/or to your lawyer, so if you forget to get it, or don't get a direct answer on the scene, don't sweat that - you will have access to that information. And pepper spray is supposed to be applied to your face - that's where it's most effective - if they don't get a good adhesion the first time, they will remove whatever is preventing it, and do it again. i.e., just take off the bandanna and get it over with once, as opposed to twice.
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As an aside, we never used it in the jail where some didn't get on us, too - it's not fun, but you live to continue doing what you need to do, eh?
eh.. this seemed to be because they were looking for a way to walk through?! Off your break the law get sprayed high horse.. im not a occupy person per say but they are harmless and screams laziness and stupidity from the cops..
Did you write this yourself, Heather?
It was a very useful service - thanks! I hope it gets broadcast all over.
interesting, this honestly would never have occurred to me. I'd reshare, but I'm pretty sure that the only thing that happens where I live is semi-peaceful protests of the lack of appropriate respect and occasional scarcity of soft foods. :)
"You have two choices, you can obey the command, and go home and not have Bad Things (tm) happen, or you can be disobedient, in which case, Bad Things (tm) will occur. You are free to make that choice. The officer, however, isn't free to choose to ignore your disobedience - he/she must enforce the lawful command."

Since I saw this post the other day I've been bothered by your comment that you have a choice but the officer does not. This seems like the 'I was just following orders defense.' Did you cheer or jeer the police and soldiers in Egypt and Libya that refused to fire on demonstrators? The police do have a choice, if they are given an unconscionable order they take their badges off and walk away. No one forced them to be cops, it was a choice they made.
+Jay McKinsey Some are dedicated to following and enforcing the laws and some are not. Blaming the cops for following orders is not helpful. +Heather Vandagriff is providing information here nothing more. She is not making any judgments.
+Jay McKinsey What was the political message those young adults were screaming @ UC Davis again? Was it something about freedom of speech?
+Heather Vandagriff I in no way limited your freedom of speech nor suggested that you should not speak your position. What I did do is politely disagree with your statement and posit that the concept in the very least needed to be explored further. Last I checked, that is what freedom of speech is all about.
Not implying you were, I'm asking you, what was the grievance on their minds that was so important they felt morally obligated to break the law? Was it corruption in government? Was it people starving? Universal healthcare? Was it disenfranchisement of left/liberal voters by those in power? Was it the unconstitutional congressional super committee? No, it was not.
My critique applied to all police actions not just Davis. It doesn't matter what speech they were making as long as it is protected speech. People sitting non violently on public ground speaking about a government action (fee hike) is as much protected political speech as any topic you suggested and may actually be about one of your topics - corruption.

In regard to the particular issue, which at first blush appears to be a self serving complaint of self entitlement, we should consider that college is now what high school was (especially in California) when it was first declared to be a free and ubiquitous institution. The matter of course indebting of our populace for a standard education is a matter for deep concern. California's subsidizing of 'higher education' has not been the cause of our problems. On the contrary, it is a big part of what has made the state one of the world's largest economies. UC is a research university where we spend billions developing critical technologies that directly benefit business and the careers of graduates.


"In 2010, for instance, the state spent $6 billion on fewer than 30,000 guards and other prison-system employees. A prison guard who started his career at the age of 45 could retire after five years with a pension that very nearly equaled his former salary. The head parole psychiatrist for the California prison system was the state’s highest-paid public employee; in 2010 he’d made $838,706. The same fiscal year that the state spent $6 billion on prisons, it had invested just $4.7 billion in its higher education—that is, 33 campuses with 670,000 students. Over the past 30 years the state’s share of the budget for the University of California has fallen from 30 percent to 11 percent, and it is about to fall a lot more. In 1980 a Cal student paid $776 a year in tuition; in 2011 he pays $13,218. Everywhere you turn, the long-term future of the state is being sacrificed."

In California the highest paid jobs for a high school diploma are for police and fire work and these jobs pay more in fully burdened compensation than the average college degree, particularly for prison guards:

But the problem goes further. Our legislators famously can't agree on anything but when they voted 102-4 to require a warrant for cell phone searches, the governor inexplicably vetoed it. Well actually the only explanation we could find is the financial lobbying of the police.

So now perhaps when you look at that picture of Lt. Pike pepper spraying those 'immoral' protesters I suggest that you might see a cop violently squelching the speech of those protesting a diversion of funds from UC to his pocket.
We must have watched completely different videos. I didn't hear a word about fee hikes, and I do not think the protestors are immoral. Thank you for your opinion.
Well you are the one who didn't bother actually sending me a link to the video you had in mind and mentioned their moral obligation followed by a list of moral action points concluded with a "No, it was not."

My mistake was to not ask you to actually present your evidence. What point are you trying to make?
With my post? Clearly that being pepper sprayed is a very painful, yet temporary normally survivable experience that one can reasonably expect to occur when disobeying the law.
Original post has been edited - I feel as though it is an improvement.
Great! I hope this useful info gets to the people who need it - maybe +Susan Stone and other people who post a lot about OWS could share it... although I'd hope that pepper-spraying demonstrators just took a big drop in popularity.
Heh, I made the mistake as a kid of getting hot pepper juice on my face from those little red peppers people grow as it on my skin two different times...burns like a mofo, indeed...
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