As tear gas shells fly through the air, the only thing on your mind is how to escape. But what if you could fight back? Here are some tips on how to combat tear gas shells.
Firstly, you should know whether the protest is likely to see tear gas shelling or not. If there are even slight chances of it happening, then you need to gear up accordingly.
- Wear padded clothing.
- Wear some sort of head protection like a bike helmet.
- Have eye protection such as googles
- Have a gas mask or piece of cotton that you can tie over your nose and mouth.
- Keep as many bottles of water as you can with you. You will need water to wash away tear gas and stay hydrated, as tear gas can dry up your throat real quick.
Keep your head up
The first thing to remember is to keep your head up. Tear gas shells can explode in any direction, so it is important to keep your head up so that you can see where they are landing. If you are wearing a bandanna or scarf, tie it around your nose and mouth to help filter out the gas.
Check out the video in the tweet above. The protesters in the video have excellent technique. This is how you need to organize and posture while you are being shelled with tear gas. Although it is not really advisable to catch tear gas like the lad in the video does but it goes on to show that if you keep your head up, you won`t just avoid getting hit by shells but you will also be able to throw the shells back.
The importance of this advice cannot be stressed enough. If you are facing authoritative regimes, then they will not hesitate to shoot tear gas shells straight at you. We have seen this in Gaza, Egypt and Pakistan. When the regimes want to deal with you at any cost, they don`t fire tear gas shells at a trajectory, they aim for your body and trust me, you don`t want a tear gas shell lodged in your body as it smokes!
So keep your head up and protect your self first.
Disperse and Regroup
This advice of course depends on the type of protest. If you are with a large group of people, protesting peacefully then dispersing fast will be very effective. As the authorities will have to cover a larger area, making them stretch out and break their formations. Once the police officials break their own formation, you can regroup and push back.
The tweet above shows a really interesting way to use group organization against the authorities during a protest. If your group is organized enough, you can create a phalanx formation and go all Sparta! But the success of this strategy depends entirely on how organized you are.
If you are caught in a tear gas attack, try to get away from the area as quickly as possible. If you can’t get away, try to find a sheltered area where you can take refuge. If you are near a building, go inside. If you are near a park or other open space, try to find some trees or bushes to hide behind.
Remember, when you face tear gas, you will need to conserve your energy. It has been seen around the world that after the initial 15 to 30 minutes, the authorities start to tire out and get affected by smoke as well, especially if it blows in their direction.
Wait for them to tire out and then push back!
However if you are protecting your leader, then you cannot afford to disperse. In this case your best bet is to have strength in numbers, proper gear and gas masks.
Protect your eyes and breathing passages
If you can’t get away and don’t have any shelter, try to cover your mouth and nose with your clothing. Try not to breathe in the gas. If you do not have a gas mask, then you can use a damp piece of cotton clothing to cover your mouth and nose. This should provide adequate protection.
The image below shows how you can make a makeshift tear gas mask. If you cannot buy a gas mask then this is a pretty good way to protect your self.
Try to be smart and plan ahead. Before leaving the home, take some piece of cotton clothing that you will use as face cover. Dampen them and then place them in a ziplock bag. This way they will remain wet till you need to use them. You won`t even need to waste water.
If the tear gas hits your eyes, try to flush them out with water as quickly as possible. If you don’t have water available, use any other liquid that is available (milk, juice, etc.). Don’t rub your eyes; that will only make the situation worse.
Try to keep eye drops or saline solution at hand. It works well to reduce the burning sensation. It has been seen in certain places that authorities use expired tear gas shells. The gas from these shells causes skin irritation and itching. In such a situation you can use coconut oil, aloevera gel, calamine lotion or any other protective skin cream or ointment on your face and hands.
Diffuse the shells
The front line protesters will need to be very active to diffuse tear gas shells. If you don`t diffuse them then the smoke will simply get too much to handle. If you are in an organized protest, then your frontline protesters will need to do the dirty work here.
Over the years, we have seen some ingenious ways to diffuse tear gas shells.
- Use a sack: Sacks are made from very thick material that can absorb tear gas well. The trick here is to have damp sack clothes ready. As soon as shells start landing, cover them with a damp sack and stomp on the shell to break it. The damp sack should absorb most of the tear gas, if done properly.
- Traffic cone: Recently we saw this in Hong Kong, where protesters used to simply cover tear gas shells with traffic cones. If the cones have a hole at the top, you can simply pour down some water or block that hole to contain the gas. Blocking the hole is better than wasting water that can be used to help people getting affected by the gas.
- Water bucket: Another simple way to diffuse a tear gas shell is to have buckets of water ready. As soon as the shells land, the protesters can simply pick the shells up and throw them into buckets.
This will help to reduce the amount of tear gas in the air.
Work in groups
If you are in a protest, then it is always better to work in groups. That way you can take turns diffusing shells and helping people who are affected by the gas.
It is also important to have a few people who are not carrying anything. They can be used to help carry people who have been affected by the gas and need to be taken away from the area.
Have a plan B
Even if you have all the gear and are well prepared, things can still go wrong. It is always important to have a plan B. This could be in the form of an escape route or simply having a safe place to go to if things get too bad.
If you are caught in a situation where the tear gas is too much to handle, then your best bet is to try and get to a safe place as quickly as possible. This could be a building or simply an area where there is less tear gas.
The most important thing is to remain calm and think clearly. Tear gas can be a very scary and overwhelming experience, but if you stay calm and think clearly then you will be able to get through it.