6.2 High Schools

As soon as they laid their hands on foggers, law enforcement extended their use from universities to high schools, specifically using the weapons against Black youth protesters.

I will stop to repeat that again so that we (myself included) can all reflect on this.

Law enforcement agents used chemical weapons against Black junior and high school students during the Civil Rights Era, including a weapon (the thermal fogger) developed not even five years prior to gas Vietnamese soldiers and civilians from tunnels.

6.2.1 San Gordonio

Although undated, this photograph printed in The Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville, Mississippi Thursday) (United Press International 1969a) on November 20, 1969 references a “recent” use of the fogger on students.

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.

FIGURE 6.11: Police use a pepper fogger on students at San Gordonio High School (United Press International 1969b).

Use of the thermal fogger by police that day seems likely, given their more documented deployment of it on December 3, 1971. On that day, 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).

6.2.2 Lawrence

Lawrence, Kansas Police used tear gas, including from a thermal fogger, on April 21st, 1970 against Black high school and junior high students, their parents, and community members (Monhollon 2002). The students had gathered that day after a week-long stand-off with administration in response to their failures to meet their demands regarding Black representation in curriculum, hiring, sports, and awards (Monhollon 2002).

Black students had occuppied the principal’s office on May 13th and prominent members of the office occupation were arrested from the school that day and promptly suspended from school (Monhollon 2002). Racial tensions escalated over the subsequent week flamed by presence and actions of the local Klu Klux Klan and Minutemen, some of whom were also police officers (Monhollon 2002). The night of April 20th, the school board held a meeting where they barred suspended students from participating and did not reinstate them, nor did they address the demands, and there was a mass walkout (Monhollon 2002).

The next day, police were ready with heavy chemical weaponry, including the GOEC Pepper Fog fogger:

yellowed B/W faded image of police officers standing on a T of a sidewalk blocking the space from a group of predominately Black young people, who are standing behind them on the grass and facing the camera. Behind them are some cars and houses across a stree. The officer in the front left of the frame is carrying a Pepper Fog GOEC fogger.

FIGURE 6.12: Police bring a GOEC pepper fogger to gas Black high school and junior high students at Lawrence High School (University of Kansas Archives 1970).