TeamRaccoonPDX formed as a non-profit to help keep the downtown Portland parks clean where racial justice Black Lives Matter protests occurred nightly. We noticed the air and soil quality of the parks deteriorate, as well as the defoliation of many trees due to the indiscriminate use of chemical crowd control weapons. In the interest of community safety and environmental sustainability, we launched a protester respirator filter exchange program with the intention of passing usable samples for testing to various researchers to figure out what is happening to Portland.
Over the month of July, the addition of federal forces brought more questions about what kind of chemical weapons were being used in Portland, and what their effects were. Various journalists, scientists, and protesters worked together to document and identify evidence pointing to the conclusion that not only are there many dangerous, deadly chemical weapons being used, but they aren't being cleaned up at all.
Throughout summer and fall, protests moved from the parks downtown to police precincts across the city. Police responded with heavy force in the form of chemical weapons, blanketing entire neighborhoods. Families unrelated to protests suddenly needed respirators, wondered if they could still breastfeed, worried about their gardens, and were scared to open their windows.
It became clear that cancer-causing crowd control chemical weapon use wasn't just a protester problem. It is a problem for the entirety of Portland. Whether it is its indiscriminate use by law enforcement, or careless lack of adherence to pollution laws, this affects us all.
Dr. Juniper L Simonis (they/them/their), PhD Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (Cornell University), Owner & Lead Scientist DAPPER Stats, Founding Member Chemical Weapons Research Consortium, pieced together footage from journalists and maps of the storm water drains to find where the contents feed into the Willamette River. When they sampled the sites on the river, they found an alarming amount of chemical weapons in the Lowell Street drain and the Hawthorne Bridge drain. Not only are these lethal chemicals being used on protesters, left on streets, and washed away in storm water drains, but they are also making it to the Willamette River.
This will have an environmental impact on marine life, including Chinook Salmon that breed in the river. The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services has stated they do not plan to conduct additional testing on chemicals found in the Willamette River, despite the continued use of chemical weapons by law enforcement.
On January 20, 2021, a series of nightly protests outside of the ICE building started. The Department of Homeland Security, often aided by Portland Police Bureau, responded to the protests with chemical weapons as they frequently do. On January 23, DHS littered the playground of the neighboring public K-8 school with chemical weapons. Small rubber buckshot balls covered in tear gas were abundant. Plastic pieces of shattered pepper and talc balls were found at the fence lining. A CS cannister was shot over a lean-to in the playground, and burned so hot that it melted the roof and embedded itself; the roof had to be cut out for the cannister to be retrieved. A concerned teacher found multiple softball-sized munitions that explode with so much force, they split in half. A small round disc that separates the chemicals to keep them from reacting until they are deployed was found inches away from a bench for kindergarteners under a tree.
On January 25, Dr. Juniper Simonis led a team to collect chemical weapons and conduct soil samples in the school. They collected soil at 32 locations on a grid and an additional 19 opportunistic samples, such as the soil around tear gas-covered rubber balls and the leaves near where the CSs canister landed on the roof. In all, more than 50 chemical weapons items were found on the school’s property.
The mayor, Ted Wheeler, has not prioritized the investigation into chemical weapons used on this public school, and has told Dr. Simonis his office will not be taking a meeting.
The use of chemical weapons in Portland, Oregon affects us all. Because we don't have the cooperation of our local elected officials to investigate the environmental impact of chemical weapon use in Portland, we have to make this happen on our own.
Public-microfunded science is not unheard of, and provides resources that facilitate independent research of environmental impacts that are, free of financial conflicts of interest, such as those from the associated with corporate-based funding sources.
Despite the clear and present impact of chemical weapons, the safety data sheets (or SDS) released by their manufacturers of these chemical weapons leave out known harmful, sometimes deadly, chemical compounds and included incorrect standardized health ratings. The narrative of the Portland Police Bureau that these weapons are "inert" comes from these deceptive names and incorrect and misinformative SDSs.
The groundwork by independent researchers has been done, and now we need your financial help to make this study possible.
The funds raised with this fundraiser will go toward the testing of collected samples by Specialty Analytical, a local independent analytical chemistry laboratory. We have set the goal at $25k for now for testing soil samples taken from areas in Portland impacted by chemical weapons including the public school playground next to ICE, testing respirator filters, water samples, and other items of interest for organic compounds and metals.
The breakdown for pricing for testing each sample is as follows:
The Chemical Weapons Research Consortium intend to process and catalog the data to present it to the public. If our elected local and federal officials refuse to give us answers, we must get them ourselves.
If you have any questions about the study, please reach out to [email redacted]
To find out more about this study and the chemical weapons munitions library, check out Chemical Weapons Research Consortium
Thank you for participating in citizen-funded research. It takes all of us.