Much of the tear gas that has so often filled the streets during protests in the Arab Spring comes from one place: Jamestown, Pa.
That was no different Monday as police sought to curtail Bahraini demonstrators seeking to celebrate the one-year protest anniversary, with tear gas manufactured by Jamestown-based Combined Systems Inc.
This time, the hacker group Anonymous promised retribution. Within hours, the Web site for CSI was down, and as of this writing, it remains that way. In a message posted online Tuesday, Anonymous accused the tear gas maker of being a war profiteer that sells “mad chemical weapons to militaries and cop shops around the world.” Anonymous also posted CSI’s employee and client data online.
Combined Systems has long been a focus of rights-groups furor, as it supplies crowd-control equipment to armies and homeland security agencies and manufactures lethal military equipment, according to the Guardian.
CSI also supplies tear gas to the Israeli military, a move protested by women’s anti-war group Women for Peace, who cited the death of Palestinian activist Jawaher Abu Rahma from the gas.
In Egypt, protesters have reported finding cartridges labeled with CSI’s name and address, and claimed that the company’s tear gas was more powerful than what security forces had used before.
“It's stronger, it burns your face, it makes you feel like your whole body is seizing up,” a witness told the Guardian. The gas resulted in “coughing fits, chest pains, blurred vision” and the “arms often shake,” protesters told Bikyamasr.com.
Experts told the Guardian, however, that the gas was most likely standard CS gas, but the effects could be exacerbated by physical exertion.
A call to CSI for comment was not returned.
By November, port officials in Suez, Egypt, started to refuse accepting shipments of Combined Systems tear gas at all, fearing it would be used against Egyptian protesters.
A month later, Egyptian Americans and Occupy Wall Street activists protested in front of the company’s headquarters in Jamestown by lying down on the ground to simulate that they were dead. Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that some Combined Systems employees attempted to forcibly remove the protesters.
On Monday, Anonymous claimed to have hacked several others sites in addition to Combined Systems — all of them security-related.
Anonymous also vowed more attacks for Valentine’s Day, tweeting: “Stay tuned for more Valentine's Day Hacks. Have you enjoyed the show so far?”