Magazine article New Internationalist

Meet the Protest Profiteers

Magazine article New Internationalist

Meet the Protest Profiteers

Article excerpt

Across the vast exhibition hall, rows of stalls stand neatly arranged. People pace the aisles, peering keenly over displays. Suited salespeople sip champagne, chatting over bowls of free breath mints branded with their company logos. Glanced from afar, one could be at any expo. There is even a hot-dog vendor in the distance.

But, once past the extra security and on to the exhibition floor, a wall-mounted rack of machine guns suggests something more sinister. Along each side of the expo's alleyways are glass cases stocked full of colourful rows of teargas canisters, sound grenades and rubber bullets. Orange caps, blue caps, yellow caps, each signifying a different size and strength. Beside them stand life-sized mannequins, lips moulded into half smiles. Rather than donning the new season's fashion, however, these are draped in the latest line of body armour. Even the boudoir corset on display is made of heavyduty rubber.

Welcome to Milipol, Europe's largest internal security expo. Operating since 1984 and now gearing up for its fourth decade, Milipol is one of the longest-running and most established security trade shows for military and policing. The 2013 event held in Paris featured over 900 exhibitors, drew 27,000 visitors and hosted 160 official delegations.

Exhibitions like these offer opportunities for government and corporate officials to peruse the latest in riot-control weapons and share strategies on surveillance and crowd control. These expos take place all around the world, from Israel to India, Qatar to Canada. They form part of a rapidly growing internal security sector predicted to expand by 20 per cent by 2020.

Corporate leaders in the 'less lethal' market include Combined Systems Inc and Non- Lethal Technologies, both based in the US, Israel's ISPRA and Brazil's Condor Non-Lethal Technologies. Southeast Asian suppliers are expanding and many of the components that go into making these weapons come from China and India, where exports are cheap.

In recent years, international companies have increasingly begun to partner up. This allows them broader global reach, enabling corporations like Condor, located outside the European Union (EU), to share tenders with smaller companies inside the EU, where trade regulations between member states are more lax.

A market opportunity

Since 2011, the sales of less lethal technologies for crowd control have been on the rise. From the perspective of security salespeople, protest is highly profitable. 'Civil unrest has become commonplace in many regions of the world, from protesters in Brazil to activists in the Middle East. Governments have responded by purchasing record amounts of non-lethal weapons,' reports 'The prevailing uncertain economic circumstances, the complex political situation, and the deteriorating security condition across the globe have given rise to popular unrest and protests,' explain investment researchers at Markets and Markets

Corporate marketing materials have likewise embraced these uprisings as promotion opportunities. In a magazine advertising their services, leading global defence company TAR writes that 2012-13 saw over 60 large-scale riots triggered by 'poverty, oppression, hunger, race or religion'. To respond to these unstable environments, TAR encourages city and government leaders to turn to their 'ONE STOP SHOP that can deliver a full turnkey robust solution' for public safety.

One such crowdcontrol solution prominently featured at Milipol 2013 was the Samson NL RW5 - a 360-degree rotating, modular, rapid-fire multilethal response system for what Israeli manufacturer Rafael calls 'lowintensity conflicts violence'. Not yet 'safety' approved for the commercial market, the modular system combines LRAD (long-range acoustic technology) with Combined Systems Inc's Venom grenade launcher for coloured smoke and flash bangs. With over 4,000 of their base systems already sold, Rafael's executives are expecting high demand for their product. …

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