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05/27/2010

Plug your ears in protest, Council of Canadians say

Sound cannon
Protesters plug their ears as Pittsburgh police use a sound cannon at last year's G20 summit. It was the first use of the device in North America. Photo: Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette

The Council of Canadians will be handing out free earplugs during the summit to protect people from ear-splitting “sound cannons,” a tool Toronto police may use to control unruly crowds. 

The so-called sound guns, officially known as long-range acoustic devices, can blast noise that can be heard from 600 metres away and reach 135 decibels in volume — above the pain threshold of 110 to 120.

Toronto police, who have bought four devices for the summit, say officers will mainly use the devices for communication purposes. The machine works like a loudspeaker, allowing cops to broadcast messages or emergency notifications in 50 different languages.

“Saying a sound cannon is a tool for communications is like saying waterboarding isn’t torture, just a tool for encouraging dialogue,” Mark Calzavara, regional organizer for the Council of Canadians, said in a press release.

“These weapons affect a large area are used without accountability. The victims won’t know who fired them and won’t be able to prove they were targeted.”

The machines were used at last year’s G20 summit in Pittsburgh, where officers blasted out continuous aural assaults, despite the LRAD manufacture’s recommendation to use short burst.

“This is meant to intimidate people and make them too scared to protest. They have spent over a billion dollars on security for this event now and it is clearly violating our charter rights,” Calzavara said.”

Meanwhile, the Council of Canadians is hoping to move its Shout Out for Global Justice public forum to Massey Hall.

But the new venue said it would need to get police approval, the Council said in a press release (its second of the day).

“We find this unsettling,” said Council chairperson Maude Barlow. “Permission to hold a public forum should not be a decision made by police.”

The June 25 forum was originally set to be in Convocation hall, but that plan was nixed last week after the University of Toronto announced that it was shutting down St. George campus for the summit.

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