The Minneapolis Police Department murdered George Floyd on May 25th, and in the following week protests have erupted across the country, in all 50 states. In Chicago, as elsewhere, the police have responded with wanton cruelty, attacking protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons. The police likely purchased most, if not all, of this equipment from SABRE Security Equipment Corporation, which has its corporate office in downtown Chicago.
SABRE has been the contractually obligated pepper spray provider for the New York Police Department since 2001, has supplied the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department with pepper spray and rubber bullets for years, and their official catalog can be found on the official State of Kansas Administration site (trigger warning for this hyperlink: images of violently pepper-sprayed people are on the first page). Police departments across the country rely on SABRE to terrorize their own residents—mostly black and brown people. SABRE’s corporate office may be in Chicago but they are an enemy to the working class of the entire country.
SABRE was founded in 1975 in St. Louis, Missouri. Their official catalog boasts that they have been “making grown men cry since 1975” and they explain that their pepper spray is trusted by police officers across the country because of its higher capsicum content, a marking dye that will identify victims of pepper spray for up to 48 hours, and their “crossfire technology” that makes it easier to spray someone who is running away. Even the fact that their capsicum content is higher is horrifying—regular pepper spray is a chemical weapon banned by Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Not content to provide only weapons-grade pepper spray, SABRE continues to innovate, producing new masks for police response during the coronavirus pandemic (which the Chicago police are using), and a new “long range pepper round launcher,” which appears to be pepper spray you can shoot out of a gun. The long range launcher was first introduced at the SHOT exposition in January 2020, where an estimated 15% of attendees are police officers.
It is easy to take for granted the fact that police have pepper spray, rubber bullets, and other weapons, but they do not have them by magic. Manufacturing employees in St. Louis produce these weapons; marketing specialists in Chicago negotiate contracts with law enforcement agencies to purchase them; logistics workers across the country transport them so that jurisdictions from New York to Los Angeles can chemically burn their own constituents. Up and down the supply chain, corporations rely on the working class to produce and sell their products—this is true for police equipment as well as everything else. Most corporations use your labor to make a profit; SABRE uses your labor to arm the police against you. Protesters across the country are standing up against police brutality, only to get brutalized by a SABRE weapon, and SABRE gets rich off of it. The corporations that profit off of police brutality are in downtown Chicago, right in our backyard and this fact should outrage every single member of Chicago’s working class.