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

B/W newspaper clipping. To left is an officer wearing long pants, long sleeved shirt, and a helmet walking forward carrying a fogger in the right hand. The fogger is blowing fog through a tube and a cloud is forming. Background is a storefront window and door. To the right 2 people are moving away from the fog, leaning on one another, and covering their faces with their hands.
Deployment of a thermal fogger by police in Berkeley CA, 8/31/1968; UPI Telephoto

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).

B/W Image: One person wearing gas mask and helmet, centered, stepping to the right. Person is holding slim white club in left hand and pepper-fogger in right hand. Fogger is pointing forward and a white cloud is surrounding the person to the front, back, and behind. The remaining background is black.
Deployment of a thermal fogger by police on Duke Campus, Durham NC, 2/13/1969; UPI Telephoto
B/W Image: Background has brick building with steps. In front of the building from center to right, a line of 5 police officers facing front and wearing helmets & gas masks holding slim white clubs about a yard long. They are standing with legs apart and clubs in both hands in front of their bodies. On the left 5 officers similarly dressed, facing towards one another. Four slim clubs are visible, and one officer is holding what appears to be a fogger in one arm hanging down at the side.
Police with pepper fogger on Duke campus, Durham NC 2/13/1969; UPI Telephoto

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.

B/W newspaper clipping. Four people walking towards camera wearing helmets with face shields. Person on the left wearing white shirt and tie has several items hanging from belt. In right hand carrying radio with extended antenna. On right side person dressed in all black standing with a wide stance and holding pepper-fogger at hip height in right hand aimed forward. In center two more people dressed in all black, one with a short stick or club in left hand. Background is mostly cloudy with someone behind white shirt person, holding some sort of stick aloft.  Glimpses of additional bodies are visible in the cloudy background.
Police use a pepper fogger and other weapons to clear a University plaza, Berkeley CA 2/21/1969; AP Wirephoto

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.

Guardsmen with bayonetted rifles and sheriff's deputies with tear and and pepper fogger walking through UC campus: B/W newspaper clipping:  Eight people in masks, shields, and tied boots walking from left to right, the one in front wearing a spray fogger strapped on back and holding the hose and nozzle in front. A cloud of fog is spraying from the nozzle. The second person is carrying a bayoneted rifle upright. The others are only partially visible as they are passing behind a tree. On the right ahead of the others an additional helmeted person can be seen turning towards the left. Two slim trees are in the foreground.
National guardsmen and police use a pepper fogger and other weapons on striking students, Berkeley CA 2/28/1969; AP Wirephoto
Four people walking away from camera, wearing helmets and holsters. Lead person has a fogger on their back and is holding the hose on the right spraying a fog ahead of them. Person on the right is carrying a bayoneted rifle raised above the left shoulder. The four are walking into the fog they’ve produced. There are some small trees to the right.
View from behind of the police using a pepper fogger on striking students, Berkeley CA 2/28/1969; AP Wirephoto

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.

B/W faded image: To the left is a person wearing a uniform with a patch on the shoulder and a helmet. In their right hand is the nozzle to a fogger and it appears to be emitting fog. There is a white fog cloud covering most of the rest of the image.
Police use a pepper fogger on a crowd of students at San Gordonio High School, San Bernardino 1969; UPI Photo

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).

B/W image: Two people in foreground wearing helmets and face shields with gas masks and uniforms with short sleeves walking towards the camera, carrying boxy looking tools with nozzles pointing forward, with both hands. Person behind, also in short sleeve uniform, helmet, and gas mask carrying slim sabre or rod across the body. Behind these people seem to be more people but there are no clear details.
Police carrying pepper foggers towards a crowd in the street, Ft Lauderdale, FL 12/31/1975; UPI Photo

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).

B/W newspaper clipping: To the left there are several people crouched on the ground with their heads down and covered. Behind them is a small crowd of people turning and moving away. To the right are three officials in helmets and masks facing the people on the ground and holding a fogger in front that is spraying a cloud of fog right over those on the ground.
Police fogging striking workers, North Kingstown RI 3/22/1982; AP Wirephoto

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].

(Nixalite 2009b).

Fully riot-geared and for some reason in green camo US Homeland Security agents (to the middle and the left of the photo) behind a row of two-foot tall, one-foot radius metal posts, behind a metal grate wall over 7 feet tall with metal support beams and concrete pylon buttressing. In the front of the left side is an agent holding a plastic clear riot shield, through which you can see a patch that say 'Border Patrol Federal Agent' in yellow and some insignia patches as well. In the middle are the agents in camo, one with a hand on the shoulder of another who is operating a thermal fogger machine shooting gas through the fence. The machine is maybe four or five feet long and has a body not unlike a bush whacker with a two-cycle engine, but fueling a vaporizer instead of a rotor. The agent is holding the machine with their right hand visibly and there is a black strap across their shoulder holding it up. The machine is mostly shiny metal, although the tip is showing signs of corrosion (no surprise based on the compounds and heat) and the supports of the body are a bright green. source:
US DHS agent deploying chemical agent via thermal fogger, Portland OR, 7/29/2020; D. Brown

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.

One person in green protective gear, wearing a bulletproof vest with weapons strapped to the body and wearing a helmet and gas mask is walking to the left carrying a fogger in the right hand arm extended down, nozzle pointing forward. A cloud of gas is coming from the nozzle. Next to them is someone dressed all in black with a bullet proof vest with the word POLICE across the back, also wearing a helmet and gas mask. It is night and there are additional clouds of gas and the shapes of people in the background. source:
US DHS agent deploying chemical agent via thermal fogger, Portland OR, 10/17/2020; M. Lake

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).

Night in a city, building lights in the background. One person standing alone in the center of a road, shown from the waist to the ankles. The person is wearing work pants with covered pockets at the thighs and calves, long sleeve shirt, and a glove on the right hand. In the left hand they are gripping the handle of a neon green fogger tool. The long black nozzle, covered with a wire cage, projects backwards and the motor is towards the front. It is being held at hip height; the arm holding it is relaxed down. source:
US DHS holding thermal fogger, Portland OR, 1/20/2021; M. Staab

Portland OR, January 23 2021

Night time with the light from a street light visible in the background. Two officers dressed in full protective gear with bulletproof vests holding supplies on, with the word POLICE stenciled in yellow. They are both wearing helmets and gas masks. The nearer one is holding a gas fogger in the right hand. Thefogger looks like a long tube between 3 and 4 feet long with a handle and motor parts near the back. The tube is covered with a wire cage until about the last half foot, which is a plain and narrower tube. Behind these two officers are some dimly lit buildings and one or two other officers but they are not clear. source:
US DHS agent holding thermal fogger, Portland OR, 1/23/2021; M. Lewis-Rolland
Nine people wearing full protective gear including helmets and gas masks standing spread out across a street at night. One is holding a gas fogger in one hand and gas is spewing and a cloud is forming in front of them. There is also some gas cloud behind the group. All of them seem to be wearing weapons on their gear but details are not clear. It is night. There is a grey building in the background with a red door and red trim. A white stripe on the roadway has the words MELT ICE spray painted on it. source:
US DHS agent deploying chemical agent via thermal fogger, Portland OR, 1/23/2021; M. Lewis-Rolland