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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