Logo for non-pooliferation treaty signed by coalition of protest groups before 2008's DNC protests

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has purchased “new face shields” for Chicago police officers that will be used during the NATO/G8 summits in May this year. The “face shields,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times, will “fit comfortably over gas masks and include a seal to prevent officers from being blinded by liquids thrown at them.”

The shields are being obtained from the Colorado-based Super Seer Corporation. About 3,057 “new and improved shields” are being bought for the city. It’s all part of a “$193,461 emergency contract,” the “first use” of a “sweeping power granted to Emanuel to purchase goods and services for the summits.” [Back in January, the Chicago City Council awarded Emanuel the right to enter no-bid contracts without the approval of the City Council if those items could not be purchased under any existing contracts.]

Exactly what liquid substances do the city and police expect protesters at the G8 to “throw” at them? The Frateneral Order of Police (FOP) President Mike Shields contends they are necessary to prevent “anarchists” and “other hard-core protesters” from “blinding” police with “urine and feces.”

According to the Sun-Times, Shields is glad the purchase is being made, but he thinks it may be inadequate:

…[Shields] questioned whether 3,057 shields would be enough if, as he fears, tens of thousands of protesters descend on Chicago for the unprecedented back-to-back summits expected to shine an international spotlight on the city.

“We have 9,500 patrol officers. Every one of them needs a new shield because every one of them has the old one and it’s completely ineffective. It’s a very thin plexi-glass. If you press on it with your thumb, it would crack. If you threw a rock at it, it will pop off. Water can seep right through. Any liquid can seep right through,” Shields said.

“Rioters known to attend NATO and G-8 meetings have been known to throw bags of urine and bags of feces at police. Chicago Police officers need a shield that can adapt to what is being thrown at them.”…

Super Seer Corporation President Steve Smith doesn’t discount this supposed “threat” of “urine and feces” during the summits. His business, which makes helmets for law enforcement, likely depends on this hysterical and irrational fear. There is money to be made. So, Smith says he considers “throwing bags of urine and other liquids” a “distinct possibility.” Protests will be “volatile.” There could be “injury to police officers.” And, apparently, that could involve projectiles consisting of human excrement.

So, when did this ever happen? Somewhere further down in the article by the Sun-Times there should be a brief mention of the time years ago when an “anarchist” or “rioter” was caught engaging in shenanigans that put police in danger of getting a taste of left-wing smash-the-state piss or shit. But, there is no cited incident. That is because no specific incident to justify the militarization of police and the demonization of protesters in the run-up to National Special Security Events like the upcoming summits ever happened.

A search through news reports reveals all police officers and city officials have to support taking measures to prevent what a reasonable person should consider the unlikely use of urine and feces during a massive protest is this conventional wisdom that this probably happened during the 1999 Seattle WTO protests. Sadly, that has been enough, because no journalist or reporter appears to have shown interest in disproving the “anarchists” will “throw urine and feces” during big protest events meme.

This is why in 2008, just before the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, three groups organizing major protests signed on to something they called the “Doo-Doo Accord.” It was largely satirical in its tone, but, nonetheless, it was serious. The “non-pooliferation” treaty for the DNC laid out the following in the preamble:

The non-partisan group Normal Citizens Rising Against Poo (hereinafter “NoCRAP”) has called for all interested parties to commit to a moratorium on the public throwing, spraying, smearing, hosing or inducing of excrement for the week of August 25-29.

Recognizing that recent assertions regarding the possible utilization of feces and urine as projectile weaponry or crowd control methods during the 2008 Democratic National Convention has created alarm in many quarters that the city of Denver could be drenched in human waste throughout the event;

Moved by the implicit desire of police, demonstrators, delegates and the people of Denver to avoid unwilling contact with said waste;

Resolved that a multi-lateral agreement is needed to end the speculation and paranoia that has plunged so many seemingly reasonable minds into the sewer;

Declaring that together, we can begin a new era of convention planning, free from the threat of urine and feces

Alas, the treaty did not have much impact on law enforcement’s perception of whether urine or feces would ever actually be used. The fear was promoted in the run-up to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the first week of September in 2008.

Minneapolis police searched a bus. They claimed to have found “one container lid fell off and suddenly they could smell an odor coming from the area of the bus resembling human feces,” according to the Center for Investigative Reporting. The bus was owned by Stan and DeLyla Wilson. The police contacted a “fusion center” in Montana and police found the Wilsons were affiliated with Earth First!, an organization that has supported radical methods for halting environmental degradation.

The “odor” in five-gallon buckets turned out to be coming from “chicken feed,” not urine or feces. The Wilsons’ bus was pulled over on the highway on suspicion of these substances being on the bus but nothing was found.

During the FTAA protests in Miami in 2003, when the “Miami Model” was first employed, Miami police prepared for urine and feces to be thrown. When it didn’t happen, the department still maintained the fear was justified. Sgt. Denis Morales, a department spokesperson, told the press, when presenting “weapons” the protesters had planned to use, “What you don’t see are the bottles of urine as well as the feces that they intended to throw.” He contended “undercover officers” had been in a “crowd of protesters” and spotted the “potentially threatening objects” earlier.

All this talk about urine and feces being thrown is pure myth. As David Solnit wrote in December 2011:

“Protesters throwing Urine” is one myth of activist violence used by authorities to criminalize protest since Seattle, yet there are no documented cases of this actually happening in Seattle or at other global justice events. This kind of myth is used to create greater public acceptance of the curtailing of civil liberties and the use of violence and repression against protests and participants. Civil liberties advocate David Meieran, of the group Save Our Civil Liberties, explained, “This is part of a spectrum of information war strategies that the state uses to repress dissent. ’Urine and feces‘ have to be understood within the larger context of the police’s disinformation about protests and demonstrations. We’ve repeatedly heard the same language used in different cities (‘urine and feces,’ ’not your father’s protesters’).”

But, since most law enforcement officers treat protesters as people who pose violent threats to order on the streets instead of citizens exercising their First Amendment rights to dissent, the perpetuation of this myth is unsurprising.

Shields is the epitome of law enforcement, a man who despises those who would dare to come out and protest during major events like the G8. His words are no different, however, from those of police in Miami, who alleged prior to the FTAA protests that “Seattle tactics” involving Molotov cocktails, crowbars, squirt guns filled with acid or urine and wrist rockets or dangerous slingshots used to shoot steel ball bearings or large bolts” would be used. His words are no different than New York police, who in the run-up to the 2004 Republican National Convention that “militant” protesters “trained in kidnapping techniques, bomb making and building improvised munitions” would be at the Convention.

And since the press are so deferential to law enforcement in this country (at least until they become victims of law enforcement as well), the promotion of this myth of urine-and-feces-throwing rioters invading a metropolis gives cover for police when they engage in preemptive policing and arrest individuals in the weeks before major protest events. Massive intelligence gathering operations with “fusion centers” snooping into the personal lives of activists occurs. Some of these individuals see their names being shared in media and associated with the threat of violent conduct during the upcoming protest event. And, law-abiding citizens see a ramping up of security that has a chilling impact on their willingness to engage in freedom of speech and assembly during the major protest event.

The Chicago Sun-Times gives us a preview of how protesters will be made to seem villainous and law enforcement will be cast as saviors as the NATO/G8 summits near. Shields gives us a preview of how disinformation from city officials, police officers, business managers and political leaders will be accepted as truth. Ironically, it is this disinformation that could backfire on Emanuel.

With disinformation comes the misinformed belief among residents of the city that Chicago should never have hosted the summits and opened the city up to “violent” protests. Residents contend they will cost too much and protesters are likely to cause massive amounts of “property damage.” When the summits are over, they will ask Emanuel why the summits could not have taken place somewhere else, making the prestige and honor the city thinks it will earn unlikely if the rhetoric against protests during the G8 continues to be pure fabrication.

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."