Professor sues Pittsburgh for using sonic device at G-20 protest

By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, September 22, 2011 19:03 EDT
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A bystander who suffered permanent hearing loss after Pittsburgh police deployed a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) against protestors during the 2009 G-20 Summit has filed a federal lawsuit against the city. The device emits pain-inducing sounds to disperse crowds and is also deployed on American warships.

Karen Piper, then a visiting professor at Carnegie Mellon University, tried to observe the G-20 protests in Pittsburgh as research for her book on globalization.

The G-20 represents the leaders of the world’s most powerful economies and the group’s summits attract a large crowds of anti-globalisation activists and others opposed to what they see as an undemocratic group promoting harmful free market policies.

While Piper was trying to leave the protest, without warning the police activated a LRAD a short distance away from her. She immediately became nauseous and dizzy, and felt fluid flowing from her ear.

“The intensity of being hit at close range by a high-pitched sound blast designed to deter pirate boats and terrorists at least a quarter mile away is indescribable,” said Piper, now an English professor at the University of Missouri.

“The sound vibrates through you and causes pain throughout your body, not only in the ears. I thought I might die. It is shocking that the LRAD device is being promoted for use on American citizens and the general public.”

Since then, Piper has suffered from permanent nerve damage, tinnitus, barotrauma, left ear pain and fluid drainage, dizziness, and nausea.

She is being represented by the the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Police departments should not be using weapons built for the military on civilian protesters,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania “As this case shows, the LRAD cannot be controlled to prevent serious harm to innocent bystanders. Collateral harm to innocents may be justifiable in wartime, but not to quell protesters who overturned a couple of trash dumpsters.”

The lawsuit claims Pittsburgh violated Piper’s constitutional right to peacefully assemble, and that the use of the LRAD was unjustified and violated her due process rights.

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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