A comprehensive resource for safe and responsible laser use

US: Laser aimed at officers during St. Paul protests

St. Paul, Minnesota police tweeted on July 9 2016 “Person with laser sight pointing it at officers.” This occurred during widespread protests in over a dozen U.S. cities, after two black men were killed by officers on July 5 and 6. (The most violent reaction occurred in Dallas on July 7 when a black Army reservist killed five officers, injured eight more, and injured two spectators.)

On July 9 in Philadelphia, CBSPhilly reported that a person was arrested for aiming a laser at a police helicopter after the protest. WHYY Newsworks said that a man was “briefly detained by officers after he used a powerful flashlight to point at the helicopter overhead. Because no illegal laser-pointers were used, he was sent away with a citation for disorderly conduct….” It is not known if these two reports referred to the same incident.

A Google search as of July 11 did not turn up any additional instances where lasers were used in or around protests.

Egypt: Protesters shine laser pointers during civil unrest

During December 2012 protests in Cairo against Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi, laser pointers were used. A photo from Reuters shows at least two pointers in the crowd:

Egypt laser pointer protest

A France 24 reporter said “dozens” of demonstrators in a crowd of 10,000 were aiming lasers at windows in the presidential palace, as part of efforts to “make sure Morsi notices” the protesters.

According to Times Live, in one demonstration three persons were shot dead and 350 others were wounded. There were no reports of injuries due to the laser pointer attacks.

A separate report in Bikyamasr.com about November 2011 demonstrations recounted accusations that Egyptian army snipers were aiming green lasers at Tahir Square demonstrators. The website confirmed that green lasers were present, but “as of [this] writing” could not confirm the snipers.

From Times Live, France 24, and Bikyamasr.com

Canada: UPDATED - Laser beams aimed at police during St. Patrick's Day riot

During a riot in London, Ontario, fire crews and police were attacked with thrown objects, as well as police having laser beams aimed at their eyes.

The 5-hour confrontation began the evening of March 17 2012. St. Patrick’s Day parties “spilled into the street” in an area near Fanshawe College. The crowd grew to about 1,000 people. A brush fire was started, and a CTV news truck was set on fire. To slow fire crews, some persons threw beer bottles, bricks, wooden planks, tires, rim and other debris. In addition, said London’s police chief, “members of the crowd used laser pointers aimed at our officers’ eyes to try to disrupt our response.” A spectator said that the crowd, made up primarily of students, “wanted to egg on the police.”

Pic 2012-03-20 at 10.18.01 AM
A person aims a laser during the London, Ontario riot. From a photo gallery at
The Star.

Pic 2012-03-20 at 10.12.57 AM
From the
Toronto Sun. This is possibly the same laser beam; note glow from fire to the left, behind the officers.

The full extent of the laser misuse is not known. While the police chief indicated there were multiple lasers involved, the National Post said “One rioter attempted to blind the officers with a high-powered green laser.” Media reviewed by LaserPointerSafety.com found a single laser being used in each photo or video. Although some bystanders and police suffered minor injuries from thrown objects during the rioting, there were no reports of laser-caused eye effects or injuries. Eleven persons were arrested at the scene; charges included assaulting police. It is not known if any laser assault charges were brought.



In the video above, green laser light can be seen on a student, beginning at about 1:48. At 1:52, a single beam is shown being waved around at approximate head level. From 1:59 to 2:05, the beam is rapidly scanned towards stationary police officers who are monitoring the crowd. The beam in the video appears to come from the same person or area as shown in the photos above.

Similar riots occurred in the same area of Fleming Drive in 2007 and 2009, blamed on a high concentration of alcohol-fueled Fanshawe students. The 2012 riot is expected to cost London $100,000 in manpower and repair costs.

From CBC News, Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, The Star, and the National Post. Thanks to Mathieu Gauthier for helping bring this to our attention.

UPDATED, April 20 2012: Thirty-eight people are facing a total of 85 charges in the incident, thus far. Brian Nuccitelli, 18, faces three charges including two relating to misuse of a laser pointer: “possessing a weapon dangerous to public peace” and “assaulting a police officer with a weapon”. Police said the pointer was aimed at officers’ faces. They said “one officer was injured and continues to receive medical attention as the result of the laser being directed at his eyes.” In addition to Nuccitelli, police are also looking for another person who aimed a laser at officers. From lfpress.com

Greece: Laser pointers continue to be used in riots

Laser pointers continue to be used during demonstrations in Athens, in mid-February 2012. The photo below accompanied a February 13 Reuters story.

Pic 2012-02-20 at 9.44.24 AM
Two separate lasers are being used, possibly held by the same person. One beam is aimed at the row of riot police at lower left, the other’s target is out of the camera frame. A more detailed version can be seen at the
Toledo Blade; click on the small photo to see it larger.

The Reuters story described burning buildings, smoke plumes, tear gas, hurled stones, petrol bombs and stun grenades. Fourteen protesters and eight policemen were injured, and more than 50 protesters were treated for breathing problems due to tear gas. The story did not mention laser pointers, so it is unknown the extent of their use, what effect they may have had on the situation, and whether any persons were injured or sought treatment.

A photo from the Associated Press was published February 20, showing green laser light directly in the eyes of a riot policeman. The accompanying AP story briefly discussed demonstrations, and did not mention laser pointer use.

Pic 2012-02-20 at 9.35.30 AM


Reuters story as published in the Otago Daily Times; AP story as published in the Toledo Blade. Previous LaserPointerSafety.com news items about laser use during riots, including protests in Greece, are listed here.
.

Greece: Demonstrators use lasers against police and to write on building

Greek protesters used laser pointers extensively during peaceful demonstrations against fiscal austerity measures, in June 2011 at the Parliament building in Athens.


A view of the crowd (AP via
Yahoo News)


Laser pointers were aimed at the police (DPA via
Spiegel)


Green and red pointers were also aimed at the Parliament building, where the dots from red pointers spelled the Greek word for “thieves.” (DPA via
Spiegel)

Northern Ireland: Laser used by rioters against police

Irish rioters used a laser to try to blind police, according to the Daily Mail. Bullets and gasoline bombs were also used against the police. More than 80 officers were injured; there was no word about any eye injuries.


A full-size version of this photo is available at the Daily Mail link below.

From the Daily Mail

Greece: Laser pointer used during riot

During riots in Athens, a protester uses a laser pointer against a Greek riot policeman. (See also this News item from 2011 Greek riots.)



From
Wired and the Boston Globe (scroll down to photo #24 to see larger and read caption)

Greece: Protesters use laser pointer against police

Riot police have a laser pointer aimed at them, during protests in Greece on Feb. 8 2011. Click to see full-size photo. (See also this News item from 2008 Greek riots.)



From MSNBC Photoblog

Thailand: Protester killed after aiming laser pointer at troops

An anti-government protester in Bangkok was shot and killed after shining a laser pointer at government troops. An eyewitness said “The man was two yards in front of me and took out a laser pointer and started beaming it at the soldiers. I thought it was a crazy thing to do, then he was hit. I felt debris, bits of him hitting me. He went down straight away. There was a bullet exit wound at the back of his head.”

From The Daily Mail online. Caution: graphic photograph of the dead protester.

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Commentary from LaserPointerSafety.com: The soldier(s) most likely fired either due to the laser pointer provocation, or due to fearing that a weapon with a laser gunsight was being used. The laser pointer light could not harm the troops except possibly at close range if shone into the eyes. Of course, in a protest/street battle situation, soldiers are not going to know or care about the eye safety characteristics of laser pointers.

This is reminiscent of a
2005 case in Florida, where a man aimed a laser pointer at deputies and was shot and killed. It is unfortunate but understandable that those with weapons who are having a laser aimed at them may “shoot first and ask questions later.”