JAMESTOWN, Pa. – A northwestern Pennsylvania manufacturing company that makes tear gas has been targeted by demonstrators over the use of that material against protesters during the Black Live Matter movement.
About three dozen activists were outside Combined Systems Inc.’s nondescript production complex on Monday to protest the company, its tear gas and other products.
Protesters from the War Resisters League blockaded the entrance to Combined’s operations in an effort to shut down company operations for the day.
Participants staked yard signs, each with the name of a different city where tear gas has been used against people, at the plant, according to a Facebook post by War Resisters League.
"This action comes after the use of the chemical weapon in over 100 cities to repress Black Lives Matter protests," War Resisters League said in its post. "We call for the full abolition of tear gas use and production in the U.S. and the conversion of these manufacturing sites into the production of goods that aren’t designed to cause harm to people."
"The history of tear gas is long and its use ubiquitous, and must end," the post read.
In addition to tear gas, Combined Systems Inc. makes aerosol sprays used for crowd control, smoke bombs, flash bang grenades, other munitions including rubber and bean bag bullets, and door breaching shells.
Its products are used by police and corrections officers around the country as well as the U.S. military and homeland security agencies. Its products also are used by armed forces, law enforcement and corrections departments around the world.
The War Resisters League, based in New York City, said there is evidence of Combined Systems Inc.'s products having been used in Egypt, Israel, Tunisia, Chile, Bolivia, Guatemala, Germany, Netherlands, India, Argentina, Hong Kong, Thailand, Cameroon and other nations.
When Pennsylvania State Police arrived around 6 a.m. there five protesters seated on the ground in front of the complex entrance gate with devices linking their arms together and the line was weighted with 55-gallons drums on each end, police said.
There were also about another three dozen protesters at the site with the front gate at Combined Systems chained and padlocked shut by the protesters, police said.
When officers determined CSI employees and others inside the facility were unable to leave because of the protest and barricades, police spoke with the protest leaders making numerous requests and warnings to the protesters to cease and disperse.
Police took the five who chained themselves together into custody around 12:10 p.m. Monday – Cassidy. A. Regan, 32, of Redding, Conn.; Torren M. Smith, 32, Aniqa F. Raihan, 24, and Pauline A. Blount, 29, all of Philadelphia; and William C. Denison III, 41, of Lake Milton, Ohio. Police had to cut the five apart from one another and the barricades.
Each is charged by state police with a third-degree felony charge of riot – intent to commit felony; three second-degree misdemeanor charges for false imprisonment, failure to disperse upon official order and obstructing administration of law or other government function; and two third-degree misdemeanors for criminal trespass and disorderly conduct.
The five were freed from the Mercer County Jail Wednesday after after posting $25,000 bond each. Their preliminary hearings on the charges are set for Sept. 8 in magisterial district court.
An unidentified spokeswoman at Combined Systems Inc. said the company had no comment.
Monday wasn’t the first time Combined Systems Inc. has had protesters.
On Jan. 15, 2012, more than two dozen marched on the company’s complex in a peaceful protest.
The protesters from the Coalition for Peace in the Middle East chose the day – Martin Luther King Day in the U.S. – to make a statement against CSI and the use of its tear gas by governments in Egypt, Tunisia, Israel, and elsewhere. The Rev. Dr. King was a minister who worked through non-violence to improve civil rights in the U.S.