Deployments in the US
Miami FL, August 8 1968
The first use of a thermal fogger to deploy chemical weapons in the US that I have been able to uncover took place during The Liberty City Riots, which took place in a Black neighborhood during the Republican National Convention (McArdle 2018).
Florida Highway Patrol used a truck with multiple foggers (Lorentzen 2018), described as “essentially a modified version of an insect-control machine” that “spread a thick fog of tear gas throughout the riot zone” (Tschenschlok 1995).
The impacts of the fog quickly impacted residents in the neighborhood within their homes, forcing them out of the buildings to seek fresh air (Tschenschlok 1995).
Berkeley CA, August 31 1968
A demonstration was called by the Young Socialist Alliiance, Independent Socialist Club, and the Black Panther Party in solidarity with anti-war protesters in Chicago who the police had brutalized. In response, police brutalized the protesters, including use of the pepper fogger, a “new police weapon… which produced a gas that caused sneezing” (UPI 1968).
Deployment of the thermal fogger was covered in newspapers around the country including The News (Paterson, New Jersey), St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri), The News-Herald (Franklin, Pennsylvania), and El Paso Herald-Post (El Paso, Texas) on August 31 and The Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii) on September 1.
Durham NC, February 13 1969
Durham Police broke up the “Allen Building Demonstration” on the campus of Duke University in Durham using a variety of weapons, including a thermal fogger (Schreiber et al. 1971). The police reportedly chased protesters across campus with the fogger, including using it inside Duke Chapel (Schreiber et al. 1971).
Berkeley CA, February 21 1969
Police deployed a fogger to clear demonstraters including striking students from outside a University Regents and Sproul Hall plaza on the University of California campus.
This deployment was covered across the country and in Canada on February 21 [Press-Telegram (Long Beach, California), Red Deer Advocate Red Deer, Alberta, Canada), The Sumter Daily Item (Sumter, South Carolina), The New Mexican (Santa Fe, New Mexico), The Leader-Post (Regina, Saskatchewan), The Jackson Sun (Jackson, Tennessee), and The Daily Tribune (Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin)] and 22 [Janesville Daily Gazette (Janesville, Wisconsin) and Messenger-Inquirer (Owensboro, Kentucky)], 1969.
Berkeley CA, February 28 1969
The following week, the police were joined by California National Guard troops to attack strikers, and continued to use the pepper fogger.
This deployment was covered in the Miami News (Miami, Florida) and the Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York) on March 1st 1969.
Berkeley CA, May 15 1969
Alameda County sheriffs deployed a pepper fogger on UC Berkeley’s campus again during the “People’s Park Riots” of 1969 (LA Times 1969, Hayes 1970).
The riot apparently started when the university tried to prevent individuals living on the street from a volunteer-run park they built on a lot owned by the school (UPI 1970).
Danville IL, Aug 10 1969
Danville Police used a pepper fogger to disperse a crowd of Black protesters that had used picnic tables to barricade a street through their neighborhood on a second night of demonstrations (AP 1969a).
Seattle WA, August 14 1969
Seattle police deployed CN and CS gas via a new pepper fogger in their clash with “hundreds of unruly youths in the University District” (AP 1969b). Witnesses recounted that the machine was “highly effective”, filling “2-3 blocks of a street with tear gas in about a minute” (AP 1969b).
San Bernardino CA, Unknown 1969
Although undated, this photograph printed in The Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi Thursday) on November 20, 1969 references a “recent” use of the fogger on students. Bolstered by the well-reported use of the fogger on students in 1971, this event appears credible.
Iowa City IA, May 6 1971
Johnson County sheriffs used chemical weapons against protesters in Iowa City, including two deputies carrying pepper foggers (Eckholt 1971).
The chemicals deployed smelled like insecticides and were described in print as “unidentified” because the Sheriff refused to identify the compounds (Eckholt 1971).
San Bernardino CA, December 3 1971
A combination of San Bernardino police, San Bernardino County sheriffs, and California Highway Patrol used tear gas from a pepper fogger to break up a “major racial confrontation” among students at San Gorgonio High School and across a 20-block area surrounding campus (Yetzer et al. 1971).
Minneapolis MN, May 10 1972
Thousands of anti-war protesters gathered in cities around the US to demonstrate against the use of mines in Vietnam harbors (AP 1972a). In Minneapolis, crowds totalling a thousand protestered gathered on and near the University of Minnesota campus and police responded with chemical weapons deployed via grenades, sprays, a helicopter and a thermal fogger (AP 1972b, Star Tribune 1972).
The fogger was used to direct the crowd around campus and spread gas over large areas, such as the area known as Scholars Walk (~0.25 mile from Washington Avenue to the Auditorium) (Star Tribune 1972).
Gainesville FL, May 10 1972
Similarly, on the campus of the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida Highway Patrol deployed a riot vehicle dubbed “The Monster” which “spewed tear gas” (AP 1972b). Although a fogger is not mentioned specifically, this is the same agency (Florida Highway Patrol) that first deployed thermal foggers via a truck in 1968 (Tschenschlok 1995, Lorentzen 2018).
McAlester OK, May 20 1974
Like many chemical weapons devices, thermal foggers are used in the carceral system, but unfortunately most deployments go undocumented or their documents never see the light of day. It seems that the only time we find out about prisoners being fogged is when a serious incident occurs triggering outside investigations and the judicial system.
In the 1970s, the McAlester (“Big Mac”) Oklahoma State Penitentiary was the site of considerable resistance and rioting by inmates (The Rag 1975, Winter Soldier 1975). A major tool used by the guards in retaliation was tear gas, which they deployed via shot shells, grenades, and pepper foggers (Allen 1974a, Allen 1975a,b, Coffey 1975b). Given its use here, it is highly likely that the Oklahoma State Penitentiary systen used pepper foggers before (and likely after) (Johnson 1975).
The guards regularly isolated the uprising’s leaders in the solitary confinement building known as “The Rock”, sealed the building, and gassed it so thick it lasted for days (Allen 1974b, The Rag 1975). During the May 20 gassings in response to riots, Black prisoner Robert Forsythe, a 33-year old serving time for a robbery, happened to be in solitary confinement due to being caught with contraband money and was not associated with the uprising direclty, and so inexperienced with the effects of gas (Johnson 1974, The Rag 1975, Wilson 1993). Although reports are conflicting on details, guards started fogging and gassing prisoners who were, at most, rattling their doors (Hobbs 1974). The likely reason for the barrage was retaliatory, as it was “unjustified” according to a veteran guard (Coffey 1975a).
During the gassings, a pepper fogger was specifically used in the building and created “fumes of gas [that] were awfully heavy, one of the worst I’ve ever seen” according to veteran corrections officers' trial testimony (Allen 1975b, Coffey 1975a). The gassing lasted for four hours despite yells for help, resulting in serious injuries including burned and blistered skin, eyes swollen shut, and breathing difficulties (Coffey 1975b). That intense fogging and lack of medical attention over the next two days were main factors contributing to Forsythe’s injuries and death two days later, according to medical experts' testimony (Allen 1974b, Allen 1975a,b).
Although the guards involved were indicted by a grand jury and brought to trial, they ultimately were acquitted of all charges (UPI 1975a,b).
Miami FL, July 17 1974
Dade County Sherrifs used foggers to sweep a field in search of a murder suspect that had elluded K-9 units, helicopters, a plane, and an attempt to flush him out by burning the field (Tampa Bay Times 1974). The suspect was so well dug in that he could withstand significant gassing that suprised a Sheriff’s seargent who participated in the operation (Tampa Bay Times 1974).
Clermont IN, Septmeber 1 1974
Indiana State Police used a pepper fogger and gas grenades on a crowd of 2,000 drag racing fans blocking a highway between the track and campsites at the Hot Rod Association’s US Nationals in 1974 (AP 1974).
Versions of an AP article describing the incident were published in The Courier (Waterloo, Iowa) on September 2, 1974 and The Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) on September 3, 1974 (AP 1974).
Ft Lauderdale FL, December 31 1975
New Year’s Eve 1975 was apparently quite raucous in Florida, as many cities experienced celebrations that got out-of-hand enough to elicit police use of force (UPI 1976). In Ft. Lauderdale, revelers pulled down at traffic light and police deployed multiple foggers on a crowd of 2,500 on the beach (UPI 1976).
The mayhem was noteworthy enough to garner publication in the Berkeley Gazette (Berkeley, California) as well as the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Florida) (UPI 1976).
Raiford FL, July 5 1981
According to the superintendent, a riot was caused in the Florida State Prison’s Union Correctional Institution on July 5th by 22 prisoners who were intoxicated, and the only way to subdue them was to deploy a thermal fogger (UPI 1981). As a result of two officers being “slightly injured” and three inmates being stabbed, an investigation was launched that caused the event to be picked up in the newspapers (UPI 1981).
Bullitt KY, December 15 1981
Although not an intentional deployment, in at least one documented incident, a pepper fogger used in firefighter training exercises caused severe symptoms and led to an investigation (Judd 1981). The Southeast Bullitt Volunteer Fire Department In Kentucky was conducting a smoke training exercise using a pepper fogger on loan from the fire marshal’s office when their “victim” and 16 others (including firefighters) began experiencing coughing fits, headaches, and chest pains (Judd 1981).
Although Smith and Wesson (the Pepper Fogger manufacturer at the time) claimed this was a one-off incident, the Kentucky State Fire Marshal’s office had received other reports of firefighters becoming sick when using foggers in smoke training (Judd 1981). Residue tests later revealed no unexpected compounds (Courier-Journal 1982), indicating the toxicity had come from the design-for-use “safe” smoke.
North Kingstown RI, March 22 1982
The Brown and Sharpe company called in local police and Rhode Island State Police officers to help try to break a (at the time) 22-long strike at their factory in North Kigston, Rhode Island (AP 1982, Carbone 2017). A North Kingstown officer named TJ Varone deployed tear gas via a pepper fogger on a group of 75 people, primarily workers' wives and Brown University students, that was blocking the main entrance to the tool factory (AP 1982, Carbone 2017). The picketers braved the gas for a considerable amount of time, requiring close-range fogging to finally disperse them (Carbone 2017).
The fogging did not, however, break the strike (Carbone 2017).
Newspaper and television coverage of the fogging circled the globe (Carbone 2017).
Portland OR, July 29 2020
At the beginning of July 2020, then-president Trump deployed Department of Homeland Security agents to “protect” federal property in Portland, OR (Homeland Security 2020, Flanigan 2020, Trump 2020). During the final days of the visible presence and response of federal agents in Summer 2020, they unveiled their thermal fogger, which has been identified through photos as an IGEBA TF35 thermal fogger from Nixalite of America Inc. This machine is designed and marketed for bird control, and while “training tool for military/law enforcement” is listed among its uses (Nixalite 2009a), its safety requirements explicitly state:
“19. Do not fog directly against persons…During operation keep distance of minimum [10 ft].”
Portland OR, October 17 2020
While the thermal fogger hasn’t been deployed at the Courthouse in Portland since July 29 2020, it has been used repeatedly by Department of Homeland Security agents at the private property US Immigration and Customs Enforcement rents to use as a holding center for deportees in South Waterfront neighborhood (Simonis, personal observation).
The first of such deployments occurred during the fall of 2020.
Portland OR, January 20 2021
The same fogger (or at least the same model) was again brought out at the ICE rental property in response to a protester spray painting a piece of plywood tacked outside the building (Simonis, personal observation).